The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa men’s basketball notebook | Hawkeye leaders emerging heading into 2023 season

The core veteran group of Tony Perkins, Patrick McCaffery, and Payton Sandfort look to guide both returners and newcomers.
Isabella Tisdale
Iowa guards Brock Harding and Davonte Bowen high-five during the 2023 Men’s Basketball media day at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Monday Oct. 2, 2023.

The Iowa men’s basketball team held its annual media day Monday without a few familiar faces.

Gone was guard Connor McCaffery, who finished his six-year career in the Black and Gold with the second-best assist-turnover ratio in NCAA history. Also absent was star forward Kris Murray, whom the Portland Trail Blazers drafted with the No. 23 overall pick in the NBA Draft. Center Filip Rebraca and his more than 2,500 combined rebounds and points moved on as well.

That trio of players combined for over 3,000 minutes in 2022, but for Hawkeye head coach Fran McCaffery, that void is filled by seniors Tony Perkins and Patrick McCaffery, as well as junior Payton Sandfort. For the head coach, that new trio has taken over in leadership roles, and like their predecessors, are “incredibly hardworking, incredibly consistent, and play like veterans.”

For Patrick McCaffery and Perkins, their playing experience as underclassmen alongside Luka Garza and Joe Wieskamp, both of whom are in the NBA, have guided them regarding behavior and habits.

Fran McCaffery explained how his son and Perkins have learned how to conduct themselves in practice and games, as well as how to respond to both personal poor performances and off-nights from teammates.

“At some point, you’re going to have a stinker, so how do you respond?” Fran McCaffery said at his press conference. “Sometimes it’s more important that those guys do it than the coaches themselves, that you hear it from your teammates. Patrick and Tony have been really lucky.”

As for his leadership style, Perkins called himself “passionate,” adding that he’s quite the trash-talker on the court who wants to not only build competitive practices but also constructive relationships with his teammates. For the Indianapolis, Indiana, native, bonding with new players is his favorite part of leadership.

For Patrick McCaffery, the 6-foot-9, 212-pounder said he expects to have a larger offensive role this season in the absence of Murray but also maintained he wanted to set standards as a veteran.

One of these standards is whenever a player subs into a game, they need to ask the game plan of the Hawkeyes’ offense and defense, even if they already know the answer. In addition, Patrick McCaffery mentioned studying the playbook and knowing what shots to take in certain game situations.

Patrick McCaffery, Sandfort, and Perkins all averaged at least nine points per game last season. As for Sandfort, who earned Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year honors last season, Fran McCaffery said the Waukee, Iowa, native has stepped up in his work around the glass. In 2022, Sandfort grabbed 4.1 boards per game playing mostly along the perimeter.

“He’s making a concerted effort to rebound a lot more. He’s always been pretty good at that,” Fran McCaffery said of Sandfort. “His rebounding numbers have been consistently good, in particular on the offensive end.”

Sandfort said he wants to “pay it forward” after all that he’s gained from his years in an Iowa uniform, adding that it’s been “super easy” to lead the younger guys on the team. Along with four freshmen, two of these players are sophomores Dasonte Bowen and Josh Dix.

“Electric” duo at point guard

Dix and Bowen each appeared in at least 25 games in 2022, with Bowen making one start. Both logged over 200 minutes last season but had their minutes reduced down the stretch as the Hawkeyes competed for a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Fran McCaffery said Bowen and Dix played a “fair amount” last season as freshmen but added that he thought the duo should have played more.

Bowen admitted it was tough to sit out entire games while he was healthy but didn’t let his immediate disappointment influence his long-term aspirations. Instead of wallowing in the rough moment, the Boston, Massachusetts, native stayed “locked in” and waited for his opportunity.

In the Hawkeyes’ first-round matchup against Auburn, Bowen logged seven minutes, more than his last five games combined. He said that playing in the postseason was evidence of his growth as a reliable decision-maker and his adjustment to the pace of play.

As for how he described his playing style, the sophomore dubbed himself “electric” but also claimed the same of Dix, his roommate and frequent one-on-one opponent.

Dix, a product of Lincoln High School in Council Bluffs, Iowa, said he has put on eight pounds over the offseason and finds himself lifting heavier weights during team workouts. For Dix, having this extra mass will help in the paint when trading blows with larger defenders.

On the court, Bowen said the pair play complimentary of each other and always look for ways to incorporate each other on the offense.

“We feed off the energy we each bring,” Bowen said.

Patrick McCaffery on his mental health

Patrick McCaffery missed more than three weeks last season due to personal anxiety struggles that he said began to inhibit his performance on the court. At his media availability on Monday, the Iowa City native was asked for an update on where he’s at.

“I feel good, I hope that part of my life has passed me,” Patrick McCaffery said. “I’m working through some stuff, and I’m not going to completely heal … I’m never going to feel the way you would ideally like to feel on a day-to-day basis. But you know, that’s just life.”

“I’m working through it and trying to figure out a way to still make a significant impact on the floor,” he continued.

The senior also took the time to explain his new tattoo on his upper left arm, a picture of a sunrise emerging from the forest surrounded by the words, ‘It’s always darkest before the dawn.’

“That’s something that provides me a lot of comfort,” he said. “I wanted a new tattoo and it worked out perfect.”

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About the Contributors
Matt McGowan
Matt McGowan, Pregame Editor
he/him/his Matt McGowan is The Daily Iowan's Pregame Editor. He is a sophomore double majoring in journalism and mass communications and American studies with a minor in sport studies.  This is his second year with the DI
Isabella Tisdale
Isabella Tisdale, Photojournalist
Isabella Tisdale is a photojournalist for The Daily Iowan and is a senior at West High school. In her free time, she stage manages for the theater program at West High. She plans to double major in political science and journalism.