Iowa recruit Patrick McCaffery hones his elite offensive skills as he prepares to join his dad
CEDAR RAPIDS, Ia. — Patrick McCaffery is a marked man this basketball season, and that’s just the way he wants it.
The Iowa City West senior is already thinking about how much it will help him when he joins his father’s Iowa Hawkeyes team this summer.
“I’m seeing more of a defense that’s more focused on me. So it makes me have to work harder for my baskets. It gives me more of a college-type look,” McCaffery said Saturday after scoring 32 points to lead his Trojans past Cedar Rapids Kennedy 60-43 at the U.S. Cellular Center. “I’m not trying to dribble too much, but just work on quick, strong moves to the rim. Because that’s all that’s going to be available at the next level.”
McCaffery, at 6-foot-8, 180 pounds, showed a complete offensive mastery against Kennedy. He has a long stride and is an expert ball-handler, so he opened play by dribbling once from the 3-point arc and quickly getting to the rim.
Alas, his first two dunk attempts were unsuccessful. He was visibly frustrated after the second miss.
He stepped into the right corner to drain a 3-pointer. Then he did the same from the left elbow. He had a dunk on a fast break and followed that with his deepest 3, from about 27 feet. Hawkeye fans will recognize that as Jordan Bohannon territory.
“I was feeling myself a little bit,” McCaffery said afterward with an easy smile that always seems to be present. “I didn’t notice how deep I was until I shot.”
The next time he drove, from the right baseline, McCaffery finished with a banked-in layup. By halftime, he had 15 points.
'He's unique:' A very good high school player getting even better
“We’re trying to get him to do more direct driving. I think he’s gotten better at that. I’m trying to add the post component," Iowa City West coach Steve Bergman said. "That may not be what he does in the future, but for this team we need that."
“He’s unique. He’s 6-8 and he’s springy, and he can play anywhere on the floor. He’s an elite between-the-3-point-line player. We’ve tried to get more and more of that, just where he’s catching the ball midcourt, and now he can go. We love that situation.”
The 3-point shooting has been the most noticeable addition to McCaffery’s game. He is shooting 47 percent from the arc for the Trojans, who have a 10-2 record. He also is a terrific passer on the perimeter, able to see over defenders and spray the ball to open shooters in either corner. McCaffery has 29 assists to go along with averaging 27.7 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.
“I’ve always been capable of shooting. But the main part of it has been my confidence level in it,” McCaffery said. “It’s being able to stay with it, keep shooting it whether or not it’s going in, because I’m that confident knowing how much work I’ve put into it.”
A 6-8 player with shooting range and the ability to blow by defenders is obviously valuable. Pair those attributes with strong passing skills and an above-average handle, and it’s easy to see why McCaffery is the 64th ranked high school senior in America, according to Rivals.
"I think it surprises people, not only how quick I am but I’ve also been able to change pace quickly," McCaffery said.
Working on his defense, and developing an edge
In the second half against Kennedy, McCaffery proved as much. He was able to dribble past defenders from the baseline or the top of the key. In the fourth quarter, Kennedy tried a 1-3-1 trapping press that McCaffery exploited for four layups and then perhaps his most impressive shot of the night, a pull-up floater in the lane that allowed him to avoid a charging foul. With 98 seconds remaining and his team ahead by 18 points, McCaffery was pulled from the game.
McCaffery has 10 blocked shots this season as well. Defensively, he has been asked to guard every position in high school, including opposing point guards such as current Northern Iowa star A.J. Green. In college, he’ll primarily be a wing defender, and McCaffery vows he won’t be a liability on that end of the court.
“We’ve had him guard some unbelievably good one-on-one players, and it just makes them unsettled to have that length in front of them,” Bergman said of McCaffery. “He’s had trouble with some kids, but more often than not he messes that kid up.”
McCaffery has had to become more assertive this season, Bergman said. He’s the unquestioned leader of his high school team for the first time. It’s not always easy for someone so naturally friendly to have to be tough on his teammates from time to time.
But McCaffery also showed he’s developing a bit of an edge. With 2.5 seconds remaining in the first half, he took the ball near halfcourt and was surprised to be so tightly guarded by a Kennedy player. McCaffery dribbled once, launched a 3-pointer and drew a foul, earning three free throws with no time on the clock. That scenario meant standing on the court alone in front of the Kennedy bench.
McCaffery missed the first attempt, then made the next two. Afterward, he turned to the Kennedy players and shouted something that can’t be printed in a family newspaper. Apparently, they had been chirping about that missed free throw, and McCaffery wanted to remind them which team had a big lead in the game.
“You say something to me, I’m going to say something back. I’m not going to back down. If people try to punk me. I’m not going to take it,” McCaffery said, then paused and smiled.
“I don’t know where I get it from.”
McCaffery will be playing for his father, Fran, and alongside older brother Connor next year for the Hawkeyes. It’s a situation he’s been thinking about for years. His goal is to add 20 pounds of muscle, but he knows he’s always going to be on the lean side. He doesn’t want to get too bulky and sacrifice any speed or leaping ability.
McCaffery has bonded with the current Hawkeye players. He can’t wait to play alongside current freshman Joe Wieskamp. He thinks they can make a great tandem on the wing. He is eager to reunite with Connor after they played two years of high school basketball together at West. He thinks he can make an immediate impact.
“Nobody knows my game better than my dad. He has a perfect vision for me,” McCaffery said.
“I’m pretty confident in my ability. That’s the goal (to play right away), but if the coaches see something else for me, I’ll do that. I completely trust their judgment.”