By Pat Harty
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Connor McCaffery has revealed his plan for being a two-sport athlete at the University of Iowa.
McCaffery announced via Twitter on Friday that he would redshirt his freshman season of basketball and play baseball immediately in his first year as a Hawkeye.
He also wrote that he would not be on scholarship for either sport next year, and that Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery, who is Connor’s father, and Iowa baseball coach Rick Heller helped to devise the plan.
“Coach Heller and my dad have a great plan in place,” Connor McCaffery said. “I thought this was the best opportunity for me in both sports, considering I still love both and wanted to continue playing both at a higher level.”
The 6-foot-5 Connor McCaffery will be a freshman at Iowa in the 2017-18 school year. He currently attends West High School, where he has earned all-state accolades in both basketball and baseball.
McCaffery also led West High to the Class 4A state title in basketball in March, averaging 19.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.8 steals per game.
He plans to play baseball for West as a senior this summer before joining the Iowa basketball team and the Iowa baseball teams for fall practice.
McCaffery hit .407 for West’s state runner-up baseball team last summer. He led the team with eight home runs and four triples, while also playing right field and first base.
“It’s definitely been on my mind,” Connor McCaffery said. “People are speculating about what you’re going to do and you kind of just want to get it over with and answer everybody’s questions.
“I think it just got to be time and that’s why I’m kind of relieved today, just to get it out of the way and get it off of my chest.”
Fran McCaffery said he tried to advise his son, but without putting pressure on him to make a certain decision or to pick one sport over the other.
“It was certainly a unique process in many ways,” Fran McCaffery said Friday. “He committed as a young player and was excited to be a Hawk. The hardest thing I think for him is trying to figure out the best way to be a two-sport athlete because it’s very difficult these days, especially for a position player.
“And I didn’t want to influence him one way or the other, like you need to commit solely to basketball or you need to commit solely to baseball.”
Connor McCaffery made a verbal commitment to the Iowa basketball team as a high school freshman. But he always has liked baseball, and ultimately decided with his father’s approval that he wanted to play both sports at Iowa.
“I’m only happy because he’s happy,” Fran McCaffery said. “The hardest thing for me throughout the process, I think in some ways he wanted me to recruit him and make sure that I wanted him, which I certainly did. But I didn’t want to influence him and I didn’t want to make him feel pressure that he’s going to come in and help us.”
“I wanted him to sort out what he wanted to do. I think he’s really good in baseball and I think he’s really good in basketball. A lot of times you feel like I’ve got to go ahead and pick one and he’s not ready to do that. And I think we can make it work.”
Connor McCaffery said he reached a decision about two days ago after speaking with his parents. They all decided it would be in Connor’s best interest to take a redshirt in basketball as true freshman in order to avoid missing the early part of the baseball season when the two sports overlap.
“One of the reasons why he’s going to go this year only on baseball is because I think it’s really hard as a freshman depending on how many games we play, he could miss as many as 20 baseball games,” Fran McCaffery said. “And that I think it is really hard for a freshmen to miss 20 baseball games and try to make impact on the team.”
Connor McCaffery said he considered attending a prep school where he could’ve played both sports and put some separation between himself and Iowa’s young backcourt in basketball. Iowa started four freshmen at times last season, including at both guard positions.
Connor's plan also would give him more time to play basketball at Iowa with his younger brother Patrick McCaffery, who is a 6-7 sophomore forward at West.
“That was one of the main I reasons I looked at prep school in the first place, thinking about the younger guards now and is there any way that we can separate things or work it to where we're able to play together and just maximize each of our times here,” Connor McCaffery said. “And then, obviously, playing with Patrick that is going to be awesome. Hopefully, he is all set to come here and I just want the best situation for him.”
By playing both basketball and baseball, Connor McCaffery is sort of entering into uncharted territory, especially as a position player in baseball. In fact, it’s so rare for a position player in baseball to play both sports in college that Connor hasn’t even spoken with anybody who tried to do it before him.
“I’ve talked to people who have played two sports, pitching and playing basketball,” Connor said. “I haven’t talked to anybody who’s done both being a position player and playing basketball. But I’ve heard of people who have done it. I just haven’t talked to them.
“So I know some people that it’s worked out for. From a pitching standpoint, it’s probably different. Just being able to balance both sports in terms of time management, that will be the biggest thing, I think.”
Connor McCaffery isn’t sure if he will travel with the Iowa basketball team to Europe in August or with the baseball team on it foreign trip. There are many details from a scheduling standpoint that still have to be worked out.
Connor McCaffery played mostly point guard in high school, but his size also would allow him to play other positions for his father.
“He’s a point guard, but with his size, he can play other places,” Fran McCaffery said. “He’s shown that he can rebound. He’s got a great feel. He’s got a great basketball intellect. So he’ll learn all the different positions and know all the difference positions.”
Connor McCaffery is one of three incoming freshmen for the Iowa basketball team, along with forwards Luka Garza and Jack Nunge, both of whom will be on scholarship.
There isn't a scholarship available for Connor at this point. But Fran McCaffery said the plan is to give Connor a basketball scholarship when one becomes available.
As for Connor’s role on the Iowa baseball team, he said he could play in the outfield or at first base.
Iowa might need a first baseman if junior slugger Jake Adams gets selected in the amateur baseball draft this summer as expected.
There is also a chance that Connor McCaffery could get selected in the baseball draft this summer.
“I think a lot of it depends on what some of his guys do in the draft this year,” Connor McCaffery said. “(Coach Heller) said there are some spots that I’ll be able to fight for as a freshman. That’s basically all we've talked about, where I can fit. But we haven’t gone into that very much yet.”
Fran McCaffery had a dual role during this process as a head coach and as a father. However, one role took priority over the other.
“I think I tried probably harder to be a father than I did a coach throughout this process,” Fran McCaffery said.