Iowa Men's Basketball

Iowa's Connor McCaffery coming off quite a passing exhibition

Iowa sophomore is starting point guard for Friday's season opener

Iowa guard Connor McCaffery (30) drives during the Hawkeyes’ 96-58 men’s basketball exhibition win over Lindsey Wilson College Monday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. (David Harmantas/Freelance)
Iowa guard Connor McCaffery (30) drives during the Hawkeyes’ 96-58 men’s basketball exhibition win over Lindsey Wilson College Monday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. (David Harmantas/Freelance)

IOWA CITY — The exchange rate of statistics in exhibition college basketball games compared to those in regular-season play isn’t 1 to 1.

That said, something from Iowa’s 96-58 men’s basketball exhibition win over Lindsey Wilson College Monday night hopped off the box score. Sophomore Hawkeye guard Connor McCaffery had 11 assists in 23 minutes.

So, he was asked after the game, can he lead the Big Ten in assists this season?

He paused a moment to think about it, then replied “I could. I could. Definitely.

“I’ve got a lot of guys around me. I’ve got shooters. We have a lot of weapons. When I have the ball, depending on how much I play, I’ll be in opportunities to definitely have a lot of assists. That would definitely be a goal of mine for sure. I think going forward that’s something I would strive to do.”

It would be a tall order given the league’s top assists man last season was Michigan State’s Cassius Winston, the preseason pick to repeat as the Big Ten’s Player of the Year. Winston is on a team stacked with talent, so his 7.5 assists per game of last season isn’t likely to dip.

McCaffery had more than 7.5 assists in a game last season twice, with eight both times Iowa played Illinois. But he was a reserve, and no one knows how much point guard senior Jordan Bohannon will play this season as he rounds back into form after May hip surgery.

“I feel very comfortable with (Bohannon) with the ball,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said Wednesday, “and I think he needs to be utilized in both ways (point guard and off guard).”

However, Connor McCaffery started at the point Monday and will do so Friday when the Hawkeyes open their regular season with an 8 p.m. home game against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.

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McCaffery’s 3.0 assists per game in 2018-19 were second on the team to Bohannon’s 3.4, with McCaffery playing 12.5 fewer minutes per game.

“He just knows how to read the game,” said Iowa freshman off guard CJ Fredrick, who scored several of his 18 points Monday off McCaffery setups.

“He’s so smooth. He plays at his own pace, he finds shots. If he’s open, he’ll shoot it.

“I love playing with him. He gets it right in the shooting pocket and I can just go right up with it. He’s so fun to play with.”

Connor McCaffery said Wednesday that some little kids played with Legos. He watched basketball tapes with his dad, Fran McCaffery said.

“He has been watching film since kindergarten,” Fran McCaffery said, “so he does have a certain feel. He’s played a lot of basketball, so he’s traveled with teams, going back to when we lived in North Carolina. I think he’s had good coaches growing up. He had a really good high school coach (Steve Bergman of Iowa City West), obviously.

“But the most important thing with him, he has a winning mindset. So he recognizes that we have some talented offensive players on this team that need the ball. Not only that, where do they need to get it.”

The regular-season assists-o-meter goes into use Friday. if Connor McCaffery approaches Winston’s sphere in that department, the Hawkeyes have a better chance to spin something good this season.

Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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