For some of you, Wednesday night may have been your first taste of Peter Jok this season -- and what a show he put on. With an outright Big Ten/ACC Challenge win on the line in the Florida State/Iowa game, Jok (Fran McCaffery's junior flame thrower), had his best collective game of the season -- finishing with 24 points, two rebounds, two assists and four steals. He did everything you could ask an offensive guard to do. He was a threat from deep, going 3 for 9 on the night; one of which came in overtime after McCaffery called his number with a little over :30 seconds left in the game and Iowa trailing by one:
He was über athletic and a hassle on the defensive end all night:
And he did a solid job of getting to the line when the offense wasn't clicking (5-6 from the stripe).
He was everything the nations best coaches thought he would be early on in his high school career at Roosevelt. He was everything the nations best coaches thought he lost after having surgery on his knee and coming back too early during his junior season at Valley.
This and the rest of Jok's extremely interesting story have finally melted into one giant picture. It's all part of Jok's maturation into the player we are seeing on the floor right now. For those that aren't aware of the guards personal journey, take a seat and silence your cellphones. Born in the Sudan, when he was three years old, his father -- a general in the Sudan People's Liberation Army -- was killed in the Sudanese civil war. His grandfather -- the chief of their village -- was also killed. When he was nine, Jok's mother -- a member of Sudan parliament -- decided to move her family and her mother to Des Moines (which has one of the nations largest Sudanese refugee population).
Basketball wasn't in the cards when Jok got to Iowa -- preferring soccer above everything else-- that is, until he was recruited to play on a 4th grade AAU hoops team. From there, Jok's game sprouted. He started turning the heads of college coaches hunting along the AAU circuit in middle school for his natural athletic ability and the propensity to score in bunches.
Depending on where you looked, he was Top-5 or Top-10 talent in his class... that is until he hurt his knee in 2010.
Jok, who admittedly thought it was just tendonitis, played through the pain, eventually needing surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon. He didn't come back as strong as he had hoped, probably pressing a little too much to rise to that elite level once again. As some of the nations top coaches slipped away to focus on more attractive recruits, the perfect window of opportunity opened for McCaffery and his coaching staff at an open gym. The head basketball coach ended up offering Jok a scholarship that night and the following weekend on a campus visit, the shooting guard from Des Moines, by way of the Sudan, signed on to be a Hawkeye.
I wish I could say that it was rainbows and butterflies the moment Jok stepped onto campus, but early on he had some issues with his weight, asthma and eating habits. He would get gassed quicker than anticipated and McCaffery couldn't rely on playing him the minutes his offense more than likely deserved. There was a maturity that needed to come along in Jok's game. For so long he got by with his offensive talent. Giving just enough. His freshman season was a rollercoaster, averaging 9.4 minutes a game and 4.4 points.
To his credit, he learned from his rookie season. During the off season he changed his diet and his training. He went into 2014-15 knowing that the number one thing he had to work on his conditioning; that no matter how many three's he knocked down, if he kept getting gassed after short bursts of minutes, he wouldn't see the floor as often as he should.
And then the moped incident happened. TWICE.
In the spring of 2014, Jok was cited for driving his moped while intoxicated and then was once again picked up in July for operating that same moped on a suspended license; the latter resulting in four days of jail time and an indefinite suspension from McCaffery -- of which ended on August 26th.
It was hot and cold from there. Don't get me wrong, Jok definitely had his moments-- especially against Iowa State, both games against Minnesota, Maryland and Davidson -- but he still wasn't quite the player the coaching staff hoped he would be. While his conditioning was the best it had been in a Iowa uniform, he had some work to do to gain back the trust of the coaching staff.
He needed to figure out how to put it all together.
Enter the 2015-16 season. Just look at the early outputs from the non-conference schedule: His minutes are up while missing a game and a half due to an ankle injury (23.5 per game compared to 19.9 in 2014-15). His points per game are up (doubling his sophomore average at 14 per game). His three point attempts are up (6.2 compared to 3.1 last year) as well as his three pointers made (2.0 compared to 1.1). And his shooting percentage from inside the arch is up considerably (44% compared to 37% last season).
You're doing it, Peter!
But that's not all. Jok is also leading the Hawkeyes -- again, while also missing a game and a half -- in percentage of possessions used (29.2%, 90th in the nation) and percentage of shots taken (33.5%, 29th in the nation). That's right, Peter Jok, not Jarrod Uthoff.
Fran McCaffery took off Jok's training wheels. He's calling his number. Outside of the efficiency of Uthoff and the cool and calm play making ability of Mike Gesell, Peter Jok is the lynchpin of this entire offense. It's the perfect storm of experience, maturity and being comfortable within a system. He's been a revelation. He's doing things I don't think he's seen since his early high school years. He's finally throwing his hat into the "best offensive threats in the Big Ten" ring and has done a fantastic job proving his merit.
He's maturing right in front of our very eyes.
He's different this year. A more mature player. A confident player. A top-10, class defining player. He's taken all of his experiences, travels, tribulations, mistakes, hard work, natural ability and his newly gained trust from a coaching staff that has always coveted his talent and is becoming the player he was always destined to be.