IOWA CITY - Last year, Cedar Rapids Kennedy came up just short in its bid to unseat Cedar Falls for Mississippi Valley Conference girls' swimming supremacy.
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Fran McCaffery’s spring was/is about as busy as his fall and winter. That’s just life as the Iowa men’s basketball coach.
A few weeks ago I caught up with Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery near Dubuque on the tail end of the lengthy spring I-Club circuit. Along with several I-Club stops throughout the state and a heavy dose of recruiting, McCaffery has attended NBA camps for Devyn Marble in Chicago and Los Angeles and raised money and awareness for cancer with stops in Des Moines, Tampa, Fla., and Nashville, Tenn. His four children also keep him busy with their various activities.
His son, Patrick, had two surgeries this spring as part of removing a malignant tumor from his thyroid. But the 14-year-old was able to rejoin his AAU basketball squad, and McCaffery attended Patrick’s first tournament in Minneapolis.
“That was emotional and great,” McCaffery said. “He played well, he did fine.”
McCaffery has 11 scholarship players for this upcoming year with two open scholarships. He declined to close the door on any additions, saying, “We’re still looking. We’re looking at some guys.” The national transfer list has ballooned to 535 (as compiled by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman) with more than 100 players still available.
But McCaffery can speak about his three newcomers — junior-college point guard Trey Dickerson (sophomore), shooting guard Brady Ellingson (freshman) and forward Dominique Uhl (freshman) — and he’s excited about what they bring.
“I think they provide kind of what we were looking for,” McCaffery said. “We wanted a breakdown, attack, ball handling guard. We got that in Trey Dickerson. He can break the defense down, he can play in pick-and-roll, he’s great in transition. He’s kind of bullet-quick but he can also score.
“Brady Ellingson is a tough, great 3-point shooter but can do stuff off the dribble. I don’t recruit shooters, I recruit players who can shoot. That’s what he is. Dominque Uhl is very much along the line of the players we recruited in the past. He’s 6-9, long, versatile, can dribble, pass and shoot. He’s athletic. Those three guys really fit with what we have returning.”
McCaffery expects a big season from incoming junior point guard Mike Gesell. Last year was filled with highs and lows for the South Sioux City, Neb., native. He led the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.0) and joined Dean Oliver and Jeff Horner as the only Hawkeyes with more than 550 points, 200 assists, 150 rebounds and 75 steals by the end of their sophomore seasons. He paced the team in assists and was ninth in Big Ten steals (1.3).
But he struggled as a shooter late in the season. In his final eight games he hit just 22 of his last 80 shots. He missed his last 16 shots of the year, including an 0-for-10 performance against Northwestern in the Big Ten Tournament. Although he missed his four attempts against Tennessee in the NCAA tournament, he did have four assists and no turnovers.
“He was very instrumental in a number of victories,” McCaffery said. “He didn’t play well in the last two games and people kind of remember that sometimes and that’s unfair because he shot it well and played well. He’s going to have a big-time junior year for us, I’m convinced of that.”
McCaffery said sophomore guard Peter Jok will not face a team suspension after pleading guilty last month to drunken driving on a moped this spring.
“That’s not my plan,” McCaffery said. “It’s whatever the protocol is for the student code of conduct. I’m not going to do anything other than what is called for.”
According to the code of conduct sanctions “include, but are not limited to: warning, reprimand, probation with or without conditions, requirements for restitution, conditions to encourage personal rehabilitation (e.g., counseling and community service), conditions related to satisfactory academic performance, suspension from practice, suspension from competition, and/or suspension from access to athletic departmental services.”
In scheduling, Iowa gets a chance to face North Carolina on Dec. 3 in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge.
“It’s a great opportunity to play in that atmosphere early in the season on national TV and they’re really good, particularly good at home,” McCaffery said. “So it will be a good test for us.”
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