Iowa Men's Basketball

The sports double-dip begins for Iowa's Connor McCaffery

Basketball guard also practicing with Hawkeye baseball team

Iowa Hawkeyes guard Connor McCaffery (30) drives basket between Ohio State Buckeyes guard C.J. Jackson (3) and forward Kyle Young (25) during the second half of a men’s basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Saturday, January 12, 2019. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes guard Connor McCaffery (30) drives basket between Ohio State Buckeyes guard C.J. Jackson (3) and forward Kyle Young (25) during the second half of a men’s basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Saturday, January 12, 2019. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Connor McCaffery posed for photos with old high school teammate Izaya Fullard. Then he jogged across the field at the Iowa football complex and did Hawkeye baseball media day interviews with print, web and TV folks.

“You guys going to be over there in a little bit?” he asked, pointing toward Carver-Hawkeye Arena, where weekly basketball media availability was about to happen. “All right, I guess I’ll talk to you there, too.”

The kid has virtually zero free time right now, as he balances two sports. And classes.

Don’t forget about the classes.

“I’ve got to fit school in,” he said with a smile.

McCaffery is a point guard for Iowa’s 20th-ranked hoops team, which you know. What you might not be aware of is he’s an outfielder-first baseman for the baseball team.

Baseball practice just began a week or so ago, which is leading to this unique and highly challenging daily double. You’ve really got to marvel at him.

“It has been fun,” McCaffery said. “Every week I’ll have a schedule. This week, for example, we have a (basketball) game at Indiana Thursday, so I won’t be here Wednesday or Thursday. But I’ll be here Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I’ll get my work in, do my stuff. Then next week, depending on our game schedule, I’ll change that around. I don’t know who we play next week or when, but, whenever the game is, I’ll adjust according to that. My classes get done around noon pretty much every day, so I’ll come in here around noon, work for about an hour and a half, then take off for basketball. Do basketball and then homework.”

McCaffery excelled at basketball and baseball at Iowa City West, but that was high school. He didn’t want to have to pick one or the other once he got to college, at least right away, so he’s not.

Illness prevented him from trying this out last year. He played a couple of basketball games as a freshman, got sick and eventually redshirted.

Once he was healthy enough, McCaffery joined the baseball team, though again redshirted.

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“Basically what Connor does is come over and hit when he can on his own, then gets in here and plays catch, makes sure his arm is in good shape,” Heller said. “Then he gets out and goes to basketball. That’s all we really expect at this point. Try to stay in as close to baseball shape as he can. Don’t let it get too far out of whack. Obviously when they travel or have games within a few days of each other, it makes it tough on him. But I think Connor has handled it really well.”

“You talk to him about overdoing it,” said Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery, Connor’s dad. “The thing that is important is that you get over there and hit and throw. He’s going to be in shape, he doesn’t have to go over there and run. He doesn’t have to lift, he lifts with us. Doesn’t have to do everything they’re doing. But you’ve got to go over there and hit in the cage and get some live pitching and stuff like that.”

His basketball prowess always has been more visible, but McCaffery has baseball skills as well. Perhaps you saw video of the walk-off home run he hit (complete with the full “pimp” at the plate) in an intrasquad game that concluded last fall’s practice.

Some are saying eventually he could have a professional future, a 6-foot-6 left-handed hitter who can play right field and first base.

His goal is just to have a seamless sports transition here first, whenever that transition takes place. He hopes he won’t begin playing baseball until late March sometime because that would mean the basketball team is still playing.

But when he does go to baseball, he wants to have an immediate impact, as he has made in basketball.

“That is definitely my expectation,” McCaffery said. “I’m a pretty confident player, I think. I’d like to think I won’t be affected at all by missing (time), though, obviously, there will be some aspect of that. I’ll be in working, trying to make sure that adjustment is very quick and it happens fast for me, so I can try and pick up where I left off. Just come and jump right in, take at-bats and be comfortable and good.”

“If anyone can do this, it’s Connor,” Heller said.

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

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