Rick Heller weighs in on Connor McCaffery's Iowa basketball decision

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

Rick Heller harbors no hard feelings over Connor McCaffery's decision to play basketball this season, rather than go forward with the dual-sport Iowa freshman's original plan to redshirt in hoops while playing full-time for the Hawkeyes' baseball team.

In fact, the Iowa baseball coach thinks this could be a win-win for his program and the one run by Fran McCaffery, Iowa's eighth-year basketball coach and Connor's father.

“I have no issue with it. And that’s what I told Fran," Heller told the Des Moines Register on Wednesday. "This is a no-brainer. He needs to play basketball. Because he’s going to get a chance to play.”

Iowa freshman Connor McCaffery is shown during media day on Oct. 16.

The basketball decision was finalized Tuesday, five days after the surprise revelation that backup point guard Christian Williams was leaving the team.

That left an opening for Connor, a 6-foot-5 point guard who was a four-star basketball prospect out of Iowa City West, to serve as Jordan Bohannon's primary backup.

McCaffery is also a left-handed power hitter in baseball, and Heller had planned on — until late last week — having Connor's full services for the season that starts in February. Now, Heller won't get Connor until (if all goes well for basketball) at least late March.

No decision has been made about whether Connor will use his redshirt year in baseball, but that seems to be where this is going.

“There’s no need to even talk about it," Heller said. "Who knows? Maybe by the time you get done with basketball, we’ve had three guys go down (to injury). You never know.”

Heller pointed out that McCaffery went through the entire fall baseball season and — even during basketball — will continue to get two NCAA-approved coaching hours per week with baseball, while making his own time to get work in the batting cages.

“I think it’s a positive for Connor in his development as a baseball player, that he’s going to be playing on a basketball team that I think’s going to be pretty good," Heller said. "Just the competitive side of that, I see a real positive to that.

"And I got the main thing I wanted with Connor, which was a full fall. We had a full fall where he was at practice every day. He understands what he needs to do to be a good baseball player. I think he totally gets it. He understands how our culture works.

“He knows our guys. Our guys respect him. And to me, those are all the things I wanted. Whereas if we only had him a day or two in the fall, I didn’t see it working out.”