New-look Patrick McCaffery returns to the court stronger, ready to contribute

The redshirt freshman added weight to his frame in the offseason and is healthy after missing most of last season.


Nichole Harris

Iowa forward Patrick McCaffery celebrates during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Penn State on Saturday, Feb. 29 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes defeated the Nittany Lions 77-68.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

Patrick McCaffery spent most of his first season as a Hawkeye watching, and a good chunk of his first offseason eating.

As a freshman last season, McCaffery only appeared in two games before he was shut down for the season while battling “residual health issues” related to the thyroid cancer he battled at the age of 14.

After the men’s college basketball season was halted in March, the once-slender McCaffery spent the early months of quarantine adding weight to his frame in order to match up physically with the other players around the Big Ten.

“The hard part was getting [the weight on],” McCaffery said on a video conference Monday. “It was just a lot of food over quarantine. That was probably the biggest part of it, just eating, forcing myself to eat. I did a lot of lifting, a lot of different workouts and stuff that I wasn’t normally doing.”

At the start of the 2019-20 season, the 6-foot-9 forward was listed at 190 pounds.

Adding weight on and maintaining it was difficult because of the health challenges McCaffery dealt with. For most of the season, McCaffery weighed less than his roommate Joe Toussaint — a point guard who is nine inches shorter than him.

That’s no longer the case.

Iowa freshmen Patrick McCaffery and Joe Toussaint hug before a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Penn State on Saturday, Feb. 29 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes defeated the Nittany Lions 77-68. (Nichole Harris)

“He’s just gotten so much stronger,” Toussaint said. “He’s bulked up from last year”

“I came in about 25 pounds heavier than I’ve ever been before in my life,” McCaffery said. “I used to be a little skinny kid so I’d run around and never get tired. But when I came back this summer, my conditioning was bad. So that was a hurdle I had to go through.”

McCaffery is over 200 pounds for the first time in his life, now mostly around the 205-pound mark.

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Now a redshirt freshman, McCaffery is healthy and returns to an Iowa team ranked No. 5 in the nation in The Associated Press preseason poll. The Iowa City native and son of Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery is a scoring threat in the paint and on the perimeter, and will play a role off of the bench for the Hawkeyes.

“He’s going to bring another layer to the offense,” Iowa guard Conner McCaffery, Patrick’s brother, said. “In transition he’s getting out running and you can throw alley-oops to him and he can finish through contact, which he may not have been able to do before because of his body. I think now, the added strength he’s put on, is really going to be beneficial for him.”

McCaffery watched Iowa’s 20-11 season a year ago from the bench, which brought its own challenges aside from the health issues.

While seeing the team make soar toward the top of the Big Ten standings made McCaffery proud, it was also a frustrating experience. He wanted to be on the court, something that he could only do in practice.

But McCaffery is back now and ready to compete again as a piece for an Iowa team prepared to compete for a national championship.

“He gives us another 3-point shooter, another guy who attacks the rim, another guy you can throw alley-oops too,” Fran McCaffery said. “I think defensively he’ll be a lot better because he’s more physical than he’s ever been able to play. He was not a physical guy, so defensively his presence was pretty much get some rebounds, block some shots because he’s taller.

“He’s fighting for traffic rebounds, he’s sliding his feet really well, keeping guys in front of him, fighting through screens… He’s in a good place.”

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