Once training camp opens up next week for the Toronto Raptors, forward Jarrod Uthoff will begin his first season as a professional athlete. In addition to that, Uthoff will be playing his first basketball season as a married man.
On top of preparing for his first NBA season, the former Iowa Hawkeyes star got married over the offseason and is excited for his future both personally and professionally. He views the new marriage as something that can be beneficial for his career.
“I just got married at the end of July; I think it’ll be positive,” Uthoff told Basketball Insiders. “I’ll have somebody at home that really has my back no matter what. I think that’s fantastic to have. I don’t have any excuses to go do anything because I’m not single, right? I focus on basketball and I got a woman. What more do you need? She’s a great resource, just someone to talk to about anything. That’s fantastic to have on your side.”
Uthoff’s path to the Raptors is an interesting story. He went undrafted in June’s draft and then played Summer League for the Sacramento Kings. He was projected to be drafted somewhere in the middle of the second round, but he and his management team opted to go undrafted versus being taken in the second round and stashed in the D-League or overseas.
As a senior, he turned in his best season – averaging 18.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. He established himself as a stretch-four who can defend and shoot very well from three-point range. He was a career 38 percent three-point shooter during his three years at Iowa. Uthoff was a member of the All-Big-Ten First Team, All-Big-Ten Defensive Team and the NCAA Consensus All-American Second Team.
Listening to Uthoff talk about his current situation, he seems very happy to have been able to sign with the Raptors in free agency. Some players prefer this route because it allows them to choose the situation that best fits their needs. Uthoff is extremely happy to join a Raptors team that is fresh off of the franchise’s first trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.
“It’ll be a great chance to learn from experienced NBA guys that play at a very high level,” Uthoff said. “Being around that every day, you can’t replace that. It’s a really professional organization that handles themselves with class in whatever they do. I think that’s showing on the court as well. It starts from the top down. They really created a special organization there.”
Uthoff understands the importance of having a great training camp, which begins on Tuesday. With the team built to win now, there won’t be very many roster spots available so he’ll be looking to stand out in any way that he can. As things currently stand, the Raptors currently have 14 guaranteed players on the roster for next season – and Uthoff isn’t one of them.
Uthoff figures to be competing for the 15th and final roster spot with other players on non-guaranteed contracts like Drew Crawford, Fred VanVleet, E.J. Singler, Yanick Moreira and Brady Heslip. Teams can carry up to 20 players during training camp, but must cut down to a maximum of 15 players prior to the start of the season.
While Uthoff will certainly be looking to have the best camp showing that he can, he views this as an opportunity to not only try to make the roster, but also just improve as an all-around player. Being around veterans like Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas among others can be an extremely positive experience for him. He’s excited to see how they handle themselves and approach games.
“It’s not only to leave a good impression – training camp is also an opportunity to get better and expand your game,” Uthoff said. “That’s the way you have to look at it no matter what you do. Every time you step on the court, it’s a chance to get better and improve yourself and your game. You got to be at peace with yourself. You got to know that you put everything out there. If you know you put everything out there, that’s all you can ask from yourself. The rest just comes along with it.”
Projecting where Uthoff might fit in with the Raptors is tough at the moment. At 6’10, Uthoff can provide the team with a big man who can stretch the floor and defend. In addition to his 2.5 blocks per game during his senior year, he averaged one steal per game. He also projects to be an above-average rebounder.
Looking at the Raptors’ depth chart, one could make the case that keeping Uthoff would be smart to provide some depth at power forward. Patrick Patterson projects to start, with newcomer Jared Sullinger coming off of the bench. Uthoff could carve out a reserve role, doing the dirty work and providing spacing when needed.
Regardless of the outcome after training camp, Uthoff is very confident in his abilities as a basketball player. It remains to be seen where he’ll end up if he fails to make Toronto’s final roster, but he’s approaching camp as if it’s his job for the taking. That’s the right mindset and confidence a player on the roster bubble must have as they try to solidify their place on a team.
“I look it at like I’m going to give it my all and I’m going to succeed in everything that I do,” Uthoff said. “I want to succeed in life and I want to succeed in the game of basketball, which is my career. I can’t wait. It’s a great opportunity and I’m really looking forward to it.”
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