Iowa's basketball coach says Connor McCaffery will be all in on baseball to start his Hawkeye career
Three-point shooting is in vogue in the NBA, and Iowa coach Fran McCaffery thinks that’s precisely why his star guard is primed to make a roster at the sport’s highest level.
“When you shoot the ball like he does, people are going to want him on their team,” McCaffery said of Peter Jok, who led the Big Ten Conference in scoring last winter as a Hawkeye senior. “When you watch him shoot, the additional distance from the college line to the pro line is irrelevant for him. He gets it there no problem.”
McCaffery spoke to reporters Friday before a Coaches vs. Cancer fundraiser in West Des Moines. He had been in Chicago earlier in the week watching Jok compete in the NBA Draft Combine.
McCaffery thinks Jok’s long-range shooting (38 percent from the 3-point arc last season), and the trend of NBA teams expanding their rosters with more one-on-one affiliations with D-League squads, bodes well for the West Des Moines Valley graduate.
Sam Vecenie, who covers the NBA for the Sporting News, agreed that Jok’s offense will intrigue NBA teams.
“He shoots the hell out of the ball. He shoots it off the catch, off the move. He has a lightning-quick release,” Vecenie told the Register this week after studying film of Jok. “He’s gotten a lot better at navigating ball screens and creating his own jumpshot off of it. He never really gets to the rim doing it, which is a little bit of a concern, but if he can navigate ball screens on the wing and get himself a free, open look with that quick release, that’s a legitimate NBA skill. And if he can take two dribbles confidently and attack a closeout on a spot-up opportunity, that’s a legitimate NBA skill.
“Everything that he has done over the course of the last two years in terms of shooting the basketball, it’s an immediate translation, especially in today’s NBA, where we’re starved for wing players. We need guys that are 6-foot-7 that can shoot the ball and Peter Jok fits that to a ‘T.’”
Then there’s the inevitable question about Jok, a 6-6 guard. Can he guard effectively enough to not be a liability as a pro? Vecenie said he was struck when watching Jok this season by how little he did on the defensive end. And that’s something that NBA teams will grill him about when Jok gets individual interviews and workouts.
“Just like whether he’s going to be able to create turnovers or whether or not he’s going to be able to stay in front of his man or if he’s going to stick on his guy’s hip off of the ball,” Vecenie said. “He doesn’t really do any of that.
“The question is how much of it was, he was literally all of Iowa’s offense this year. And how much of it did he kind of need to conserve energy on defense? I didn’t see anything defensively that says NBA coaches are going to feel comfortable that he’s going to play the scheme properly and not get lost.”
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Vecenie has Jok ranked around 65th on his list of prospects. Sixty players are selected in the two-round NBA Draft. Pressed for a current player to compare Jok with, Vecenie came up with NBA veteran Wayne Ellington, who averaged 10.5 points for the Miami Heat this season.
“If Peter Jok turns into Wayne Ellington, I think he’ll be happy with that. I think that that is a rosy scenario for Jok,” Vecenie said.
Jok isn’t the only potential June draft pick on McCaffery’s mind this spring. His son, Connor, has a chance to hear his name called during the Major League Baseball Draft.
“A lot of times it depends on how they view signability. Will he sign or not? He might,” McCaffery said. “He’s probably good enough to get drafted.”
Connor McCaffery is a 6-6, left-handed power hitter and right fielder at Iowa City West. The conundrum for his father is that Connor also is a star point guard who plans to try both sports at Iowa. But for this year, it will be baseball-only at the college level.
Connor will redshirt as a basketball player.
“I think that’s a smart move,” Fran McCaffery said. “If you wait to the end of our season, you miss the first 20 games or so (of the baseball season). I think that would be a hard way to go in Year 1.”
Fran McCaffery said his son will join the basketball team whenever possible for practices and film sessions in the next year. But baseball will be the priority to start.
“Connor is not ready to give one (sport) up and he thinks he can do both. I think in order to do so, you need someone like his father to work with the baseball coach (Rick Heller),” Fran McCaffery said.
And if Connor ends up choosing baseball over the sport his father coaches? Fran said he has no problem with that.
“He’s always been a really good baseball player, ever since he was a little kid. He played all the time,” Fran McCaffery said.