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Iowa Basketball: Former Hawkeyes Getting Their Shot in NBA

Tyler Cook and Jarrod Uthoff are getting some run in the NBA bubble.

NCAA Basketball Tournament - Second Round - Columbus
Tyler Cook is one of a pair of Hawkeyes getting some minutes in the NBA this year.
Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The Iowa Hawkeyes have high hopes for a potential 2020-2021 basketball season. That is in large part due to the return of all-world big man Luka Garza, who turned down his shot at leaving early for the NBA to cap off his career at Iowa with a senior campaign.

While Garza will wait another year to make his NBA debut, a pair of former Hawkeyes have recently had an opportunity to make a name for themselves and potential stick around in the league.

Tyler Cook, F

Denver Nuggets

Tyler Cook had a tremendous career at Iowa, leaving early in 2019 following his junior season. In his first season in the NBA, Cook has bounced between the NBA and the G Leauge, making an appearance in 13 games to-date. In that span, he’s averaged just under two points and one rebound in four minutes per game.

While the vast majority of Cook’s NBA game time has been with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the former Hawkeye started his career with the Denver Nuggets, who gave him a two-way deal after he went undrafted in 2019. The Cavs claimed Cook off of waivers in October after he was cut by the Nuggets.

Despite making appearances in 11 games for the Cavaliers, it was an up and down ride in Cleveland. Cook was signed to a two-way deal, then converted to a full time NBA contract in January. Three days later, Cleveland waived Cook. Three days after that, they re-signed him to a 10-day deal. When those ten days were up, Cook was looking for a new home.

That home was the Oklahoma City Blue of the G League, who acquired Cook with a 1st-round draft pick and a second-round draft pick in the 2020 G League Draft from the Clinton Charge. Cook looked poised to take advantage of the new opportunity with a 19 point outburst in late February. That was quashed when everything came to a halt in mid-March.

But Cook’s opportunities were not done. On June 30th, the Denver Nuggets signed Cook to a two-way deal. Since the restart, the former Hawkeye has made a pair of appearances for the Nuggets, averaging 2 points, 2 rebounds and 1 steal in just under ten minutes per game.

That’s largely driven by a strong showing in his most recent appearance. Last Friday, Cook saw the most run he’s had in his career to-date, earning 16 minutes. He maximized the opportunity, scoring 4 points on 1-2 shooting, adding 4 rebounds and a pair of steals, while also committing one foul and turning the ball over twice.

Jarrod Uthoff, F

Washington Wizards

While Cook is in his first year in the NBA, Jarrod Uthoff is working on his second go in the league. After going undrafted in 2016, Uthoff signed as an undrafted free agent with the Toronto Raptors but was waived ahead of the regular season.

After nearly three months with the Raptors 905 of the G League, Uthoff was traded to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in January of 2017. Two months later, he made his NBA debut with the Dallas Mavericks on a 10-day contract.

Late in 2017, Uthoff saw action in 9 games for the Mavs. He averaged more than 4 points and 2 rebounds in just under 13 minutes per game. After signing a multi-year deal, it looked like the former Hawkeye had found his home.

Just three short months later, Uthoff was traded to the Houston Rockets for cash. A month later he was waived and back in the G League, where he had a great season in 2017-2018 for Fort Wayne, averaging 16.5 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.

Despite the strong year, it seemed Uthoff’s NBA dreams were fading as he opted to head overseas in 2018-2019. He put up 7.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per game in 16 appearances for Zenit Saint Petersburg in Russia.

But the trip abroad was a catalyst for Uthoff rather than a sign of fading dreams. In October of last year, the Memphis Grizzlies signed the Cedar Rapids native. He was waived a day later, but again landed in the G League. This time, with the Memphis Hustle, Uthoff took his game to the next level.

He averaged 19.0 points and 10.7 rebounds per game for the Hustle, en route to a G League All-Star appearance before being named 1st Team All-G League over the summer. The spectacular play in Memphis earned Uthoff another shot in the NBA.

In February, the Grizzlies signed him to a 10-day contract. During stretch, Uthoff made appearances in four games for Memphis. Unfortunately, the season came to a grinding halt shortly thereafter.

The stoppage, like the trip overseas, appears to have been a blessing for the former Hawkeye. As the league made its return, the Washington Wizards announced they were signing Uthoff as a substitute player in the bubble.

Since the return, Uthoff has gotten run in three games for the Wizards, averaging 5 points and 1.7 rebounds in 13 minutes per game. That was highlighted by 8 points and 3 rebounds on 50% shooting from beyond the arc in 24 minutes of last Thursday’s 96-90 win over the Boston Celtics.

While the path to a long, sustained career in the NBA is still treacherous for both Uthoff and Tyler Cook, each has shown they can hang when given an opportunity. In the current environment, opportunities have presented themselves and the former Hawkeyes have pounced.

Here’s hoping we have more Hawks in the NBA and basketball in general to talk about soon enough.