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IOWA CITY – Connor McCaffery will play basketball for his dad this season.
Iowa basketball officials confirmed Tuesday the freshman made the decision after meeting with baseball coach Rick Heller Tuesday afternoon. Men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery said Friday after the Hawkeyes’ exhibition opener against William Jewell that the decision would be up to Connor pending that meeting.
The original plan for the eldest McCaffery son was to redshirt in basketball and play baseball, but the plan was thrown into disarray when junior Christian Williams decided to leave the program last week. A decision on whether or not Connor will redshirt in baseball this year has not been made, and is one Iowa officials said will be decided at a later date.
“I spoke with the baseball coaches today and they gave me the thumbs up to play basketball this season,” Connor said in a statement from Iowa. “I’m excited to help the basketball team this season and contribute to the best of my ability.”
Fran McCaffery was not available for comment Tuesday.
Connor played 18 minutes in the Hawkeyes’ 105-81 exhibition win, finishing with five points, three assists two rebounds and no turnovers, despite going 0 of 5 from the field. Both he and his dad said he felt and looked comfortable and would be able to adjust to this change and playing right away just fine.
“Coming in at the beginning, obviously I had been playing baseball, so some things weren’t as smooth, but now that I’ve been playing it’s been a lot better,” Connor said Friday after the exhibition. “I want to do whatever I can to help. (Jordan Bohannon) can’t play 40 minutes in the Big Ten. It’s too hard on his body. He could some games, but over an entire season, it taxes too much on him. I’m just trying to be the plug and fill in some spots on the team that hopefully helps out.
“I felt comfortable (against William Jewell), felt like I made some nice passes.”
Connor’s comfort in Fran’s system dates back basically as long as the freshman has been playing basketball. He has been able to attend practices led by Fran, both at Siena and Iowa, making it far easier to pick things up now.
Connor was able to practice and travel with the basketball team this summer for their European trip, and he said he had been the primary backup to Jordan Bohannon in practice even before Williams’ decision to transfer.
All that adds up to what he feels will make for an easy transition onto the court.
“It helped that he practiced with us in the summer and played overseas,” Fran said Friday after the exhibition. “He missed about three or four weeks and that was a hard stretch when he came back; he was a little rusty. But he’s been solid.
“He’s been coming to practices for 13, 14 years. He knows what we want to do. He knows our play sets. He’s really smart.”
Connor being put into the regular rotation this year offers Fran some options in his backcourt rotations, if the opening exhibition is any indication.
Bohannon and Connor were on the floor for a long stretch in the second half, getting Bohannon off the ball and, as Fran said, able to get the ball in some different locations. Given Bohannon’s shooting ability and likelihood teams will focus heavily on that, Fran said they’re actively trying to find different ways of getting him open because, “we like to get him going,” Fran said.
Both Bohannon and Connor had positive reviews for playing at the same time after the game. Bohannon even called back to their middle school days and playing youth tournaments together.
“It’s funny because we played together back in seventh grade in Las Vegas,” Bohannon said. “We kind of go back quite a bit. It gave us flashbacks. It’s the same thing as it was with Ryan (Kriener) and Cordell (Pemsl). We just know where each other’s going to be on the floor and it’s kind of transferring. It’s nice for me because I can move over to the two a little bit and try to hunt for my shot a little more. That’s big for him to be able to play point.”
Iowa has its final exhibition Thursday against Belmont Abbey before opening the regular season at 8 p.m. Nov. 10 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena against Chicago State.
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