Teammates, coaches support Iowa men’s basketball player Patrick McCaffery as he battles anxiety issues

The junior forward announced he would take an indefinite leave from the team on Tuesday.


Grace Smith

Iowa forward Patrick McCaffery shoots a 3-pointer to take the Hawkeyes and the Badgers into overtime during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Wisconsin at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022. McCaffery led the Hawkeyes in points with 24. The Badgers defeated the Hawkeyes in overtime, 78-75.

Chris Werner, Assistant Sports Editor

Less than 24 hours after Iowa men’s basketball forward Patrick McCaffery announced he would be taking an indefinite leave of absence to focus on his mental health on Tuesday evening, Patrick’s teammates, head coach and father Fran McCaffery, and mother Margaret McCaffery met with the media.


Fran said Patrick will continue to be with the team during his leave but will not participate in games. 

Patrick’s brother Connor, a forward on the team, senior forward Filip Rebraca, and junior forward Kris Murray — as well as both Patrick’s parents — commended his strength and honesty.

RELATED: Iowa men’s basketball’s Patrick McCaffery out indefinitely to focus on mental health

He has struggled with this for a while,” Fran said Wednesday. “I think he said it pretty well, in terms of how he feels and how his body feels at any point in time in terms of his eating and sleeping and so forth. His energy level isn’t where it needs to be. He’s pretty transparent about how he feels, and so we’re just trying to help him feel better.”

Fran said Patrick has dealt with anxiety issues since high school, but it has “been really hard for him the last couple weeks.”

Margaret added she noticed Patrick struggling on the court during the past few games. 

“The Eastern Illinois game was pretty … I don’t know if you guys noticed, but he almost threw up on the free-throw line,” Margret said. “He went in [to the tunnel] and got sick. And I walked over. At first, we thought, I thought or hoped that he was just exhausted, and he was, but part of why he was exhausted was just because he was getting so run down.”

Margaret said Patrick seemed to be doing pretty well when he was home for Christmas, but during the game against Nebraska, she noticed he didn’t have the “oomph” he usually does. 

Margaret said for the past few weeks Patrick has been “mentally and physically exhausted” because of anxiety. 

“You don’t sleep you don’t eat, don’t have any stamina,” Margaret said. “And then the other part of it is, just physically, he has no adrenaline. So, by the time he gets to game time, he feels like he’s already run a marathon the whole day, and his body just has nothing.”

While battling through this, however, Connor said Patrick tried his hardest to be on the court for his teammates. 

But Connor also told Patrick that he should do what’s best for himself individually. 

“I told him whatever he needed to do to be himself was what he should do,” Connor said. “He made a comment to me, like, ‘I feel like I have to play.’ And I said, ‘No you don’t … Like you’re waking up sick, and you don’t feel good, and everything feels wrong, and you’re not in a place where you’re enjoying what we have going, then you do not have to play.’ I think it was mature of him to step up and say something, brave. I’m proud of him for sure.”

The decision to be open

Fran said after Patrick decided he was going to step away, the family members discussed whether they wanted to be private about it or publicly shine a light on Patrick’s situation. 

“We talked about it at length,” Fran said. “Quite honestly, my first inclination was to keep it simple and not be vague but just very simple and work through it. It was really his, and quite frankly, Connor’s, thoughts were to be open about it and discuss it directly, which I agreed with, and they of course talked it over with their mother, as well.”

Margaret said she felt it was important to let Patrick decide how the information got out. 

Connor said he feels that his brother’s choice to be open about his struggle will help to destigmatize the issue of mental health and will help other people speak up and do what’s best for themselves. 

“I don’t think [mental health issues are] something to be looked poorly upon,” Connor said. “I think it’s brave. I feel like people will understand, and I think he’s actually helping a lot of people by doing that.”

Connor also noted that he believes it may benefit Patrick to be honest about his situation. 

“In my opinion, if you’re open and honest about things, you might feel better yourself, because you don’t feel like you’re holding things in,” Connor said. “You’re not feeling like you’re keeping things from people … But then also the outreach and support, I thought that could help. I didn’t want him to do this and be nervous about saying why, and then have people speculating and making things up.”

Overwhelmed by support

Margaret said that while the support Patrick has received since making his situation public has been great, she said Patrick may be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of encouraging messages. 

“He’s already sort of drained, and so I think he really appreciates it and he knows that it all comes from a good place,” Margaret said. “I think he’s overwhelmed by feeling like he wants to reach out and respond to everybody who is reaching out to him.”

Margaret said she reassured him that it’s O.K. if he doesn’t get to every message.

“I’ve tried to say, you know, ‘This is a time for you to be a little bit selfish, and to take care of yourself first, and do what you feel like you need to do to feel better, and those people will understand and if you don’t reach out to them right away, there’ll be okay.”

Connor said he has been getting positive and uplifting social media messages about his brother.

“I haven’t been on Twitter,” Connor said. “I haven’t seen everything. I re-downloaded it just to throw a tweet out there in support of him, obviously, but I still didn’t see everything. But I know that the support and outreach has been great on all social media platforms and texts, like Snapchats. I’m getting Instagram DMs about him, the support has been awesome. And I think that I did expect that a little bit. At least I hoped for that and I thought that generally, people understand, or don’t understand but try to understand.”

Rebraca, who lives with Patrick, is one of the many people who have supported Patrick on social media. 


“It’s incredibly brave what he did,” Rebraca said Wednesday. “I didn’t even know that he’s dealing with it, and I live with him. [Being open about his situation is] something I admire, it’s pretty courageous. People go through things like this and you don’t even know. So I’m always gonna be here for him, and whatever he needs. I think the whole team is gonna step up and be there for Patrick.”