Prep Basketball

Iowa City West's Patrick McCaffery learns to deal with trolling and hate on social media

Iowa City West’s Patrick McCaffery prepares himself as players are introduced before their Mississippi Valley Conference boy’s basketball game against the Iowa City High Little Hawks at Iowa City West High School in Iowa City, Iowa, on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa City West’s Patrick McCaffery prepares himself as players are introduced before their Mississippi Valley Conference boy’s basketball game against the Iowa City High Little Hawks at Iowa City West High School in Iowa City, Iowa, on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — It began when Patrick McCaffery was a freshman. No, he didn’t completely understand it.

“At first, when it started happening to me, I was just like ‘Why?’” the Iowa City West junior basketball standout said.

Why would people, many of them adults, get on social media and attack a 15-year-old kid? Yeah, that’s pretty hard for anyone to comprehend.

“I didn’t play very much, didn’t contribute a whole lot just because we had four Division I starters on our team,” he said. “I got a lot of stuff my freshman year because I was supposed to be all this, all that. I just didn’t live up to those expectations. So it was like ‘You suck, you’re skinny, you’re trash.’ Just from random people.”

McCaffery is the son of Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery, so he’s an easy target. He gets that.

“I’ve just kind of dealt with the pressure even more, because they expect that much more out of me,” he said. “Everybody wants to watch me, everybody wants to have an opinion, whether it’s positive or negative. I’ve got to make sure I bring the same consistency, the same intensity every single time I step on that court. Because you never know who is watching, you never know what kind of (crap) you’re going to get.”

This season has been especially bad for the 6-foot-8 forward, who most recruiting experts rank in the top 50 nationally. Patrick recently announced he’d be joining his dad and brother, Connor, at Iowa.

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Patrick said he got a direct message on Facebook from someone he’d never met after Iowa lost to Iowa State in December, telling him he should de-commit because his father was a bad coach, was going to get fired and wouldn’t be around to coach him. Similar thoughts were recently posted by a person on Twitter, which Patrick reposted and responded to, leading to the derogatory tweet to be deleted by the originator.

“I can’t wait to be a grown man and tweet at high school kids about firing their dads!” Patrick tweeted. “it must be really fun I am so excited!”

“Shut the hell up tell your brother to get healthy or quit,” another adult man responded.

Social media can be a mean, snarky place sometimes.

“My dad just always tells me to keep a level head,” Patrick said. “That’s what he always advises me. He says that everybody wants an opinion, and their opinion doesn’t matter. I’ve just kind of developed a sense of only a select few number of people’s opinions of myself I’ll actually take into account and use to better myself. Obviously my parents, my coaches, my close friends. All that other stuff is just noise, and you’ve just got to block it out.”

McCaffery said he recently deleted his Twitter and Instagram accounts but changed his mind because he has many friends there and loves keeping up with how they are doing, on the court and off. He said he ignores most of the hate.

Most of it.

“I try not to respond,” he said, with a smile. “But sometimes when they lob softballs, I’ve got to get after them.”

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It’s hard to believe this kid was a social-media darling just four years ago. Everyone expressed their support for him when he was a 14-year-old battling thyroid cancer.

It was #TeamPat back then.

“Grayson Allen (of Duke) is one of my favorite players in college basketball,” McCaffery said. “He gets more hate than anybody, but he just, like, embraces it. He just loves it. So I’ve just kind of tried to develop that kind of mentality.”

BIG SCHOOL POSTSEASON ASSIGNMENTS ON WAY

The Iowa High School Athletic Association is expected to release postseason district and substate pods Friday for Class 3A and 4A. It’ll be especially interesting to see how the eastern side of the state is divvied up in 4A. Iowa City West widely is considered the top team, though it’s anyone’s guess after that, with cases to be made for Cedar Falls, North Scott, Pleasant Valley, Dubuque Senior and Dubuque Hempstead, among others. Coaches seeding meetings for 3A and 4A will be held February 7, which will determine postseason brackets. The IHSAA released district pods for 1A and 2A last week, with seeding meetings scheduled for Wednesday.

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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