IOWA CITY, Iowa — Five years after moving to the United States to play basketball, Dom Uhl sees himself as an American.
The 6-foot-9 Iowa forward, who was born and raised in Germany, spent two years at a New Jersey high school before earning a scholarship at Iowa. The junior speaks flawless English, considers it his first language and wants to live in the United States after his professional basketball career concludes, probably in Europe.
“I would like to play over there for a little bit, but I definitely would like to live here after that,” said Uhl, who averages 4.4 points and 3.8 rebounds in 16.3 minutes a game this season. “I can’t really explain it. I just like the lifestyle.”
This summer, Uhl will join his Iowa teammates on a European exhibition tour, which includes a stop in his hometown of Frankfurt. The Hawkeyes, whose last exhibition tour was in 2013, will play games in Germany, Switzerland and Italy. Uhl is excited about the chance to play in front of family and friends.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it,” Uhl said. “It’s always fun to go back home and especially this year. We’re going to go over as a team, and I get to see all my friends.
“That definitely means a lot. I’m definitely thankful, too. It’s always good to go home. I appreciate it.”
College basketball teams can schedule foreign tours every four years. In 2013, Iowa had a player enjoy an experience similar to what Uhl is likely to go through. Coach Fran McCaffery scheduled a tour of England and France for former center Gabe Olaseni, who grew up in London. Olaseni started multiple games in London that drew large crowds. McCaffery envisions the same reaction for Uhl in his hometown.
“If we ever have a player from a foreign country, and we have a chance to go on a foreign tour, that’s our turn, then we’ll go there,” McCaffery said. “We’ll always go wherever that person’s from.”
Uhl has yet to tell his friends about the homecoming tour. When he does, he’ll do it in German. In the United States, Uhl prefers to speak English in all situations and eschews attempts from his teammates to speak German. He’s soft-spoken and rarely engages in trash talk, but when he does, he tosses insults in English.
“I don’t have anybody to speak German with here,” Uhl said. “I don’t really like German. It’s not a language that sounds good to me. I just happen to speak it.”
“A couple of us usually ask him, but he doesn’t like to do it,” sophomore guard Christian Williams said. “Maybe on the phone here and there.”
At times, the German tone can sound aggressive, which prompted Williams to say, “If I spoke German, I would probably speak it quite a bit.”
Uhl laughed off the suggestion that German can sound intimidating.
“That’s what people say, but it doesn’t sound scary to me,” he said.
But don’t mistake Uhl’s apathy for the language as dispassion for all things German. He’s an avid German soccer fan who celebrated the country’s World Cup title in 2014 while attending his first classes at Iowa.
“I always bragged to people, like Brady (Ellingson). He follows FIFA,” Uhl said. “I definitely talked a little crap to them.”