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Jim Ecker, President & Editor

Metro Sports Report

Jarrod Uthoff

Uthoff picked for NeXt All-American Classic

Cedar Rapids Jefferson senior Jarrod Uthoff has been selected to play in the NeXt All-American Classic on Sunday, April 3, at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

Uthoff is one of 24 players from across the nation to be selected, along with players from Arizona, Illinois, Missouri, California, Virginia, Indiana, Maryland, Alabama, Minnesota and Kentucky. There also is a player from Germany.

Uthoff, 6-foot-8, has been named Mr. Basketball and the Gatorade Player of the Year in Iowa this season. He led the state in scoring at 26.2 points and led Jefferson to the Class 4A state tournament.

Uthoff has signed with the University of Wisconsin. Two of his future Wisconsin teammates also have been chosen for the game with Frank Kaminsky, a 6-10 center from Lisle, Ill., and George Marshall, a 6-foot guard from Chicago.

The NeXt All-American Classic will be televised on the CBS College Sports Network at 2 p.m.


Defenders give home-schoolers a chance

Noah Dargy is a starting forward and a senior leader on a team that went 18-3 this year and is headed to a national tournament. The fact that he and his team – the Defenders – are under the radar for most Metro basketball fans is of little concern to him.

“It doesn’t particularly matter to me if we’re in the paper,” says Dargy, a home-school student who describes himself lightheartedly as “5-foot-10-and-a-quarter – a little undersized for a power forward. That’s why I need the quarter inch.”

Dargy says he plays to have fun, be with his friends and reflect the religious values that underlie his team’s founding organization, Fellowship for Athletes Inc. (FFAI).

“Our emphasis is that everything we do is to honor God, whether it’s in practice or a game,” he explains. “If you knock a guy down, you pick him up, and everything you do is 100 percent. It adds another level of motivation to be a Christian.”

FFAI began 10 years ago as a series of basketball camps for boys and girls, says founder and head coach Ray Vasser.

“We were coming from a Christian perspective, instilling principles that kids can apply within the athletic realm but outside that realm as well. Six years ago we decided to create a varsity sports program for girls and boys, with home-school kids from Cedar Rapids and Marion as our main target.”

Called the Defenders, the resulting program includes a basketball team for girls in grades 6 through 12,  a “junior high” team that includes boys in grades 4 through 8, and a high school boys team. FFAI also developed a volleyball team called the Comets that subsequently became an independent organization.

Vasser explains that the name Defenders is a reference to a Bible verse, I Peter 3:15, that urges Christ’s followers to be ready “to give a defense for the hope that is in you.”

“We don’t Bible-beat,” he says, “but we try to teach biblical principles to live by. One of our key foundations is that the character of an athlete means developing self-discipline, creating good habits and good decision-making and always being truthful.”


Morrissey brings high expectations to Prairie

 Mike Morrissey and his wife, Jessica, are expecting their second child this fall, just in time for his first season as the new football coach at Cedar Rapids Prairie.

There will be great expectations at Prairie as well.

Morrissey is only 28, but he's already coached at three different colleges and led Thornridge High School of Dolton, Ill., to the state playoffs last season in his first year as head coach.

Prairie announced Morrissey as its new coach Wednesday afternoon. He succeeds Craig Jelinek, who retired after the 2010 campaign with a 106-96 record in 20 years.

"I'm extremely excited," Morrissey told the Metro Sports Report. "It's a big step for my family. We're definitely ready to get started."

Morrissey comes from a football family. His father, Ed Morrissey, was a Hall of Fame coach at Pleasant Valley High School and is currently an assistant coach at St. Ambrose University.

"I was going to Pleasant Valley games probably from the time I could walk," he said. "I was a ballboy there from the time I was in fifth grade all through eighth grade."

Morrissey played for his father at Pleasant Valley and was a starting quarterback.

"His impact on my life has been tremendous," said Morrissey. "I learned a lot about myself though my experiences as a high school football player, being able to be around their coaching staff and the great people that have been at Pleasant Valley as well.

"To this day, he's still the best coach I know. I've been very blessed to have him as a resource and somebody I can rely on for help."

Marcus Paige

Paige named All-Metro Athlete of the Year

Linn-Mar junior Marcus Paige has been named the Athlete of the Year on the All-Metro boys basketball team and his coach, Chris Robertson, has been named the Coach of the Year.

Metro coaches placed seven players on the first team, including four unanimous picks with Paige, Jarrod Uthoff (Jefferson), Josh Oglesby (Washington) and Wes Washpun (Washington). The other first-team selections were Matt Bohannon (Linn-Mar), Jake Manning (Kennedy) and Kasey Semler (Marion).

Uthoff has been honored this month as Mr. Basketball and the Gatorade Player of the Year, the two most prestigious awards in the state, but Metro coaches felt Paige deserved to be the Metro Athlete of the Year for basketball.

Linn-Mar went 26-0 this season, sweeping the Mississippi Valley Conference title and capturing the Class 4A state title.

The All-Metro second team included Josh Montague (Linn-Mar), Shane Benton (Linn-Mar), Kyle Lamaak (Kennedy), Taylor Olson (Jefferson), Christian French (Kennedy), Matt MacDougall (Prairie) and Kevin Hosch (Xavier).

Honorable Mention

Ian McBrayer (LM), Michael Thul (LM), Tyler Meiborg (CRJ), Alec Saunders (CRJ), Jake Misener (CRK), Joe Coleman (CRK), Sean Bredl (CRW), Cybryan Moa (CRW), Jacob Aune (CRP), Matt Jantzen (CRP), Mitch McLaughlin (CRX), Nolan Dunkirk (CRX), Dusty Albaugh (Marion).



Uthoff Gatorade Player of the Year

Jarrod Uthoff added to his glittering collection of postseason awards Thursday when he was named the Gatorade Iowa Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

Uthoff was named Iowa Mr. Basketball on Tuesday and previously was named the Mississippi Valley Conference Player of the year.

Uthoff, a 6-foot-8 senior at Cedar Rapids Jefferson, led the state in scoring this season with 576 points. He averaged 26.2 points, 11.1 rebounds and 3.2 blocked shots and set the career scoring mark at Jefferson with 1,306 points.

The Gatorade award also recognizes high standards of acacemic achievement and exemplary character, according to the company. Uthoff has a 4.16 GPA, is a member of the National Honor Society and has volunteered with Special Olympics.

Recent Gatorade Players of the Year in Iowa include Harrison Barnes of Ames (2009 and 2010) and Matt Gatens of Iowa City High (2008).

Uthoff is a finalist for the Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year award. He has signed with the University of Wisconsin.


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