Iowa men’s basketball team embraces brotherly love

When Pryce Sandfort joins the Hawkeyes in 2023, the Iowa men’s basketball team will have had three separate sets of brothers in the past four years.


Dimia Burrell

Iowa forward Patrick McCaffery goes to hug guard Connor McCaffery during a men’s basketball game between No. 5 Iowa and No. 12 Northwestern in the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Thursday, March 10, 2022. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats, 112-76. The McCaffery brothers combined for 15 points.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor

Iowa men’s basketball head coach Fran McCaffery has an affinity for recruiting sets of brothers.

First, he recruited his own sons, Connor and Patrick McCaffery, to the Hawkeye men’s basketball team. Connor McCaffery joined the Hawkeyes in 2017, and Patrick McCaffery followed two years later. 

Kris and Keegan Murray, an identical set of twins from Cedar Rapids, joined the Iowa men’s basketball team together in 2020. While Keegan Murray left for the NBA following the 2021-22 season, Kris Murray is still in Iowa City for the 2022-23 season.

The Hawkeyes will be getting their third set of brothers in four years when Pryce Sandfort joins Iowa in 2023. Pryce Sandfort is the younger brother of Payton Sandfort, who is currently a sophomore. 

Well, I think there’s familiarity on a number of different levels,” Fran McCaffery said about recruiting brothers on Thursday. “Obviously, the younger guys already know the guys on the team, and they’ve watched the program. They’ve watched the games. There’s comfortability there.

“I think the fact that the older brothers are telling the younger ones to come, I think that’s great. Obviously, Keegan and Kris were the same year, but you’re happy that the older brothers had a great experience.”

Pryce Sandfort officially signed his national letter of intent on Wednesday, joining Owen Freeman and Brock Harding in the Hawkeyes’ 2023 class. 

“I am super excited to be a Hawkeye and play basketball at the next level for my home state,” Pryce Sandfort said in a statement provided by Iowa Athletics. “What really attracted me to the University of Iowa was the culture and style of play. I believe they both fit me perfectly.”

The 6-foot-7, 190-pounder is a four-star recruit and the 98th-ranked player in the 2023 national class, according to 24/7Sports. Pryce Sandfort had multiple offers on top of Iowa, including Washington State, Seton Hall, Nebraska, Davidson, Clemson, and Drake.

But the Waukee, Iowa, product chose to reunite with his brother. Payton Sandfort, however, didn’t want to influence his brother to continue his basketball career in Iowa City.

Iowa guard Payton Sandfort high fives the bench during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Bethune-Cookman at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats, 89-58. (Grace Smith)

“I really wanted him to make his own decision, so I kind of stayed away,” Payton Sandfort said. “I’d kind of throw in subtle jabs all the time, but I’d always answer any questions that he had for me. Ultimately, I wanted it to be his decision. I wanted him to come here because he wanted to come here, not just because I love it here. I’m happy for him.”

While Payton Sandfort added he was nervous his little brother might choose a different school, he was pretty confident about Pryce Sandfort’s decision to become a Hawkeye.

With a commitment to Iowa, Pryce Sandfort gets a seamless transition. He’s already been making the trip from Waukee to Iowa City to come to football and basketball games and hang out with his future teammates.

Connor McCaffery is using his final year of eligibility in 2021-22, so he won’t be Pryce Sandfort’s teammate when he arrives next year. But he knows the younger Sandfort will fit in well.

“Some weekends, if he’s free, [Pryce] will just come up and come hang out with the guys,” Connor McCaffery said. “We’re already pretty comfortable with him, and it should be a seamless transition for him. I’m excited. Even though I’m not his teammate, I’ve spent a lot of time with him.”

Having family members together, like Payton and Pryce Sandfort or Fran, Connor, and Patrick McCaffery, can also help build chemistry and camaraderie. The family ties can keep tensions down, Connor McCaffery said.

“You’re on each other’s nerves, but it’s always in a good way,” Connor McCaffery said. “You’re not really, you’re never actually mad at your brother. Like, you are, but it’s different. It’s not like somebody you’re competing against, or even another teammate. Like you know it won’t last the same way with your brother than it does with somebody else.”

Payton Sandfort said he’s excited for Pryce Sandfort to join him at Iowa. Payton Sandfort hasn’t played on the same team with his brother since his senior year at Waukee High School, when the pair won the 2021 4A state championship together. 

And the competition aspect will still be there for the two brothers — if there’s a last-second free throw opportunity, Payton Sandfort said he’ll be the one to take it.

“We grew up fighting in the driveway and stuff, so I’m excited for him to get here,” Payton Sandfort said. “I think we can do some special things and carry on the brother legacy.”