CEDAR RAPIDS — More than once this season, you noticed Patrick McCaffery bent over a trash can before or at halftime of an Iowa City West boys’ basketball game. He was vomiting.
“That was really more so nerves and anxiety than anything,” McCaffery said.
Even the best players can experience stuff like that. It means they care.
The really, really good thing in McCaffery’s case was it had nothing to do with his health. The 6-foot-8 senior, who took part in Wednesday night’s annual Eastern Iowa All-Star Games at Kirkwood’s Johnson Hall, was discovered to have thyroid cancer when he was in seventh grade.
Treatment after having the gland surgically removed was rough, as you’d expect, but McCaffery has been cancer free since since its conclusion.
“Honestly, I don’t really think about it that much at this point,” he said. “It’s part of my past. I kind of embrace it ... You’ve got to deal with it and move on. Be a better you every day.”
That doesn’t mean there have been no lingering effects. McCaffery is skinny, all of about 180 pounds.
He knows he’ll have to weigh more than that once he gets to the University of Iowa, where he will play for his dad, Fran. It is difficult to put on pounds when you have no thyroid.
“It just kind of affects my appetite, as well as my energy,” Patrick said. “We’re still trying to figure out the right dosage for my medicine, trying to get it right. It’s kind of complicated. The doctor’s main thing is, obviously, to make sure the cancer doesn’t come back. That’s my main priority.
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“But it affects how I feel, as far as having fatigue and things like that. They’re still trying to figure out a nice little balance, as far as not having the cancer coming back and me being able to function like normal people.”
McCaffery said he and his father feel he must weigh 195 or more to contribute like they want him to. He has length, the ability to run the floor, some ball-handling ability and the ability to shoot jumpers from mid-range and distance.
His skills are undeniable.
“We’ve talked about it a decent amount. He’s just trying to put extra weight on me,” Patrick said, with a smile. “Telling me to maybe eat an extra peanut butter and jelly sandwich before bed or something. He just wants me to eat all the time. He thinks that that’s the only thing holding me back ... If I can get to 195-ish by the time next season comes around, I’ll have a chance to play a lot right away. It all just depends on how my body develops once I get on campus. We still have a long time to figure out whether or not I should redshirt.”
Patrick is keeping a completely open mind about next season. There really is no rush, considering Iowa has just about everyone returning from a team that lost its NCAA Round of 32 game to Tennessee in overtime.
“I am OK with whatever,” he said. “Because I know we’re going to have a really successful team. I just can’t wait to get on campus and contribute in whatever way I can.”
Wednesday’s All-Star Games featured one for girls and one for boys. The boys' game in particular was stacked, with McCaffery, Northern Iowa-bound Noah Carter of Dubuque Senior and Derek Krogmann of West Delaware, as well as 2019 Co-Mr. Basketball winners DJ Carton of Bettendorf (a five-star recruit headed to Ohio State) and Jake Hilmer of North Linn.
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