In a shocking development, Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel confirmed Thursday night the rumor that heated up quickly during the afternoon: 6'8" redshirt freshman Jarrod Uthoff will transfer out of the Wisconsin men's basketball program.
One of Potrykus' sources indicated the move "came as a surprise" to the UW coaching staff and players. Uthoff's AAU coach Jamie Johnson told Jim Polzin the same thing. Yet Wisconsin honored his request to be released. The nature of Uthoff's move implies it was not the reason behind Wisconsin's renewed interest in recruiting 2012 forward Sheldon Jeter out of the Pittsburgh area.
The 2011 Mr. Basketball winner from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, nearly entered the team's season opener against Kennesaw State this past season, which would have prevented him from taking a redshirt season to bulk up. As late as February, Uthoff maintained he had no regrets and was enjoying Madison.
A desire for more playing time is one possible explanation until more information comes out. However, that contradicts the fact that Uthoff just completed a redshirt season. Transferring to another Division 1 school on scholarship would require him to sit out another full year.
Staying with the Badgers would likely mean another year of seasoning behind Ryan Evans, Mike Bruesewitz, and Jared Berggren. That may not have sat well with Uthoff. After all, his stated goal for next season was simply "to play." But after 2013, Uthoff would be first in line for minutes at the power forward spot in a loaded lineup.
Therein lies another likely factor. It's possible that Uthoff saw himself more as a wing forward and didn't want to stick around and have to play against Big Ten power forwards. He spent this season adding almost 20 pounds to his slender frame, but he was still easily pushed around in practice by bigger players.
More than anything, however, I got the impression that Uthoff was always a little unsure of himself here. He really struggled with the decision to redshirt, going so far as to say he wished someone would just tell him what to do. It's conceivable that any number of folks in his support system could have heard him express unhappiness with his future at Wisconsin and encouraged him to make a change. He was the youngest Badger and no doubt the brunt of a few jokes. If there is any homesickness in there as well, the decision starts to make even more sense. We just don't know yet.
It's just hard to imagine Wisconsin now being without a young player whom Bo said this about not even six months ago:
"He'll play at the University of Wisconsin, and he'll play early. He's a player. Better than expected. But don't tell him I said that. Right now he's kind of picking up things like Josh did last year. Coaches like good listeners, fast learners. And I've never seen a more conscientious guy."
There is unconfirmed Internet chatter about the Badgers restricting Uthoff from transferring within the Big Ten or Big 12. He certainly could not be on scholarship at another Big Ten school. Both Iowa State and Kansas State's Bruce Weber (when he was at Illinois) recruited Uthoff before he signed with Wisconsin. Northern Iowa or Creighton would be two logical options close to home as well. Stay tuned.
What does his decision mean for Wisconsin? It opens up an additional scholarship for the 2012 class. In addition to Jeter, also 6'8", or another late signee, that scholarship could go to a current player like incoming freshman Zak Showalter or Zach Bohannon.
The departure will leave Wisconsin thin on experience up front in years to come if they don't land a couple impact bodies in the next two classes. Signing Jeter or 2013 forward Semi Ojeleye becomes even more important. Remember the versatile Uthoff was a Top 100 player according to some scouting services coming in, thought to be the jewel of UW's 2011 class.