CEDAR RAPIDS - Earlier this season, a reporter asked Iowa City West boys' tennis coach Mitch Gross about the #x201c;triple crown#x201d; of prep tennis.
At the time, Gross dismissed the thought of winning a state championship in singles, dou ... »
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CEDAR RAPIDS — There are perks. Lots of them.
When your father is the head coach of the Iowa Hawkeyes, you have access to a lot of things the average kid doesn’t.
Connor McCaffery realizes and appreciates that. He really does.
But being “Fran’s kid” isn’t always swished 3-pointers and alley-oop dunks, if you will. There are challenges.
“People kind of look at you funny occasionally. They might have a different opinion of you,” he said. “Everyone wants to have an opinion, and I think that’s probably a little frustrating. For me, I might be on a higher stage, in terms of my social status and all that, because of who my dad is. That helps me, yeah. There are great things that come from that.
"But I think it hurts me, too. Everybody wants to see me, so they can say what they think. Make a judgement on me. Everyone is quick to judge.”
McCaffery is a good kid, mature enough to let most stuff go. His dad and mom, Margaret, taught him to rise above the naysayers, the hecklers, because they’d definitely be out there.
Chants of overrated don’t bother him. When student sections chide him with things like “Patrick’s better,” referencing his younger brother, a sophomore at West, he doesn’t flinch.
But sometimes Twitter can be mean and nasty. It sure was lately, and Connor felt he had to stick up for his family.
“In terms of the crap I might get from people, I just deal with and ignore it,” he said. “But there are some things that do really set me off. The other day, some kid tweeted at my brother ‘Happy birthday. #FireFran.’ I’m really not OK with stuff like that, just because it was my brother. If you tweeted that at me, I’d probably ignore it. But to tweet it at him, on his birthday, say something like that ...
“I don’t think that’s something a lot of people around here think. At least I hope not. I just thought that was really an ignorant thing to say on his birthday. That really ticked me off and was one thing I did respond to.”
Most of the rest of his responses have come on the court, with his play. The 6-foot-5 guard was a four-year starter for Class 4A’s best program, helping it to the state tournament all four years.
West won it all when he was a freshman and again two weeks ago. McCaffery is The Gazette’s 2017 area boys’ basketball player of the year.
West Delaware’s Matt Uthoff is coach of the year. The Hawks went through the regular season unbeaten, qualified for the Class 3A state tournament and finished fourth.
Uthoff is a West Delaware graduate who returned to his alma mater after a stint at Maquoketa. The Hawks should be strong again next season, with the return of center Derek Krogmann (an all-area pick), among others.
McCaffery led West in rebounds and scoring this season (19.6 points per game), was a close second in assists, shot 52 percent from the field, 41 percent from 3-point range and 84 percent from the free-throw line.
Then there were the significant intangibles.
“Every year he has gotten noticeably better,” West Coach Steve Bergman said. “This season, he filled the biggest hole we had. He was a great leader. That was something maybe we were lacking the past couple of years.”
The stories have long been told about Connor McCaffery’s basketball IQ. As a little boy, he used to attend his dad’s practices.
He studies the game, seems to have an intuitive nature about it.
“His biggest attribute is he is a coach on the floor,” Bergman said. “He sat out a couple of games last season with a concussion, and it was like ‘Man, I’d like to have him next to me on the bench every game.’ He was seeing things, making suggestions that were great.”
“I think Connor is a great point guard, I think he’s a great leader,” said West teammate Devontae Lane, also on the all-area team. “He knows what he’s talking about, from his dad being a coach. He’s just kind of one of those kids where he’s a smart basketball guy on the court and a smart basketball kid off the court. It’s been an honor playing with him. I don’t remember ever having any arguments with him. We’ve always seen eye to eye, always seen the same things.”
McCaffery committed to play basketball for his dad at Iowa as a sophomore, and that’s still the plan. An all-state outfielder, he also will play baseball for the Hawkeyes.
There are no available scholarships for him at Iowa right now, and he said he has no issues being a walk-on, if it comes to that. There is an outside chance prep school could be in the cards for a year.
Ultimately, things will work themselves out, he said.
“I think my shooting improved this season,” McCaffery said. “If you look at my numbers, I’ve tried to improve every year. I really got into the gym (in the offseason) and shot a lot. I’d still like to work on my quickness, my strength, things like that, as I get to the next level.
“It’s set in stone, as far as what are the two things I’m going to do. I’m excited to play, and, hopefully, the basketball side of things works out. I’m excited for that. I’m going to be busy. I really am. But that’s not something I’m too worried about. I’m excited to play both sports.”
Austin Ash, 6-2, sr., Mount Vernon — Was the leader of an inexperienced team that finished 17-6. Did everything. Averaged 23 points per game (third in Class 3A), and led Mustangs in 3-pointers, free throws, rebounds and assists. Is an invited walk-on to the University of Iowa. Second-team all-state by Iowa Newspaper Association.
Grant Dirks, 6-5, jr., Center Point-Urbana — Averaged 20.6 points and 7.6 rebounds for a CPU team that lost a close game to West Delaware in 3A substate finals. Shot 57 percent from the field, including 31 made 3-pointers. From two-point range, shot 63 percent. First-team all-Wamac Conference pick.
Jake Hilmer, 5-11, so., North Linn — Shined on the bright stage of the state tournament, helping Lynx to third-place finish in Class 1A. Led state with 275 assists in 28 games, 85 more than the next-highest total. On pace to shatter state’s career assists record. Also averaged 21.8 points, shooting 56.4 percent from field and 84 percent from free-throw line. First-team all-stater.
Cooper Kabela, 6-5, sr., West Branch — Averaged 23.8 points, which ranked fourth in Class 2A, and 7.9 rebounds for team that lost in substate finals. Shot 56.8 percent from field, venturing outside to hit 27 of 47 3-point attempts (57.4 percent). Selected to 2A all-state first team.
Derek Krogmann, 6-7, so., West Delaware — Averaged 15.8 points and 11.4 rebounds for WD team that went through regular season undefeated and finished fourth in Class 3A at state tournament. True post player who did not attempt a 3-point shot. Shooting percentage of 57.6. Finished fifth in state in offensive rebounds. Second-team all-stater.
Devontae Lane, 6-2, sr., Iowa City West — Averaged 14.9 points for the Class 4A state champion Trojans. Also led team in assists and steals. The latter total of 77 was second in 4A. Four-year varsity player who has opportunity to play college basketball and football. First-team all-state pick by INA.
Connor McCaffery, 6-5, sr., Iowa City West — Four-year starter for Trojans, who helped team to a pair of 4A championships, a runner-up and third-place finish in his career. Averaged team-best 19.6 points per game, shooting 51 percent from field and 83.6 from free-throw line. Also was West’s top rebounder. First-team all-stater will play basketball (and perhaps baseball) at University of Iowa.
Patrick McCaffery, 6-7, so., Iowa City West — Emerged this season as legit future Division I college player. Ranked in the top 50 in his class nationally by most recruiting experts. Averaged 13.8 points and 4.3 rebounds, and was a defensive influence with 46 blocked shots. Connor’s brother, both are sons of Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery. Second-team all-state.
Matt Mims, 6-0, jr., Cedar Rapids Xavier — Led Saints to second-straight Class 3A championship with superb play at point guard. Had go-ahead points late in Xavier’s semifinal and title games at state. Averaged team-high 15.3 points and had an awesome assist-to-turnover ratio of 135-to-41. First-team all-state.
Max Smith Drahos, 6-1, sr., Cedar Rapids Prairie — The Metro’s player of the year averaged 17.5 points and shot 61.9 percent from the field, an astounding number for a guard. Known for being able to penetrate through the lane for shots. Also was second on team in assists, rebounds and blocked shots, leading in steals. Third-team all-state in 4A.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Connor McCaffery, Iowa City West
COACH OF THE YEAR: Matt Uthoff, West Delaware
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