The curious case of Patrick McCaffery's recruitment
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Patrick McCaffery isn’t just a prime-time prospect in Iowa anymore.
Three weeks ago, the rising four-star Iowa City West junior rocketed 37 spots from 60th to 23rd in Rivals’ Class of 2019 rankings. And he’s proven worthy of the top 25 since.
He led the Iowa Barnstormers U-16 team with 15, 13 and 19 points in the final three games of their 3-1 performance at the first Adidas Gauntlet in Dallas from April 21-23. Two weekends ago, at the second Adidas Gauntlet in Atlanta, he put up 18 against James Harden’s AAU club and led the Barnstormers to the semifinals.
"I think he was kind of trying to prove that he belonged in that classification," said Prep Hoops Iowa’s Tony Roe, who watched McCaffery in Dallas. "He was just unbelievable all weekend on both ends of the floor."
National recruiting experts, including ESPN’s Paul Biancardi, are now McCaffery fans, and AAU coach Greg Stephen told HawkCentral that McCaffery plans to attend the prestigious National Basketball Players Association Top 100 camp in June.
So … does Iowa have any competition for the meteoric riser yet?
"No. I don’t think I’ll get anything," McCaffery laughed. "But I don’t know."
BROTHERLY BOND:Connor, Patrick McCaffery on life and basketball
This kid’s recruitment is peculiar, to say the least.
Connor McCaffery’s was similar, but he committed to Iowa early his sophomore year. Patrick is still uncommitted. Arizona sent him a letter last year, but nothing since. Iowa's his only offer. Other schools are left in a bit of limbo: He's on target to be a potential McDonald's All-American down the line, but he's also a coach's kid, so should they even bother?
"Everybody just kind of gives him the benefit of the doubt, like, ‘Hey, Connor’s going to Iowa. Fran (McCaffery) is the coach at Iowa. Where else would (Patrick) want to go?’" Stephen said. "At the same time, I think Patrick is interested in seeing if there might be some other options out there. I don’t think he’s made up his mind that Iowa’s where he wants to go, but at the same time, I don’t see him going anywhere else.
"The fun thing to me about Patrick is he’s really, really good, and he’s just scratching the surface of where he could be in a year or so. So it’s crazy to me."
College coaches can't call prospects directly until June 15 after the prospect’s sophomore year. That’s six weeks away for McCaffery, a prodigious block machine whose ball-handling skills are rapidly growing.
Stephen doubts coaches would even contact him then, unless they got Fran McCaffery's approval first. He said coaches wouldn’t want to step on Fran’s toes.
"Because he’s so respected in the coaching industry," Stephen said.
Added Patrick: "(Other coaches) think that I’m not going anywhere else, and they wouldn’t want to waste their time with another coach’s kid or anything like that. I respect that; it makes sense."
McCaffery said late last week he doesn’t have a commitment date in mind and that he hasn’t thought much about college basketball "at all." Instead, he’s focused on priority No. 1 this offseason: getting bigger and stronger.
"I hold my own against (top AAU competition). Because we played some of the best teams in the country week in and week out, and I do just fine," McCaffery said. "So I’m just trying to get bigger and stronger so I’m able to keep staying with them athletically."
McCaffery is 6-foot-8 and weighs about 170 pounds right now, he said. That’s up from the 165 range he consistently weighed this season. He said he’s started working with a nutritionist to add some mass to his frame — which is lean in part because of his battle with thyroid cancer in 2014.
"Breakfast, I’m trying to eat more because I’m not really a breakfast guy," he said. "So I’m just trying to throw down a breakfast sandwich and a couple protein-type smoothies or shakes or something like that. And then, at lunch, I’ve started to eat more.
"But the big thing is just trying to squeeze in some extra calories and eat a 500-calorie bar in the hallway or something like that."
Roe and Stephen have already seen a slight difference in McCaffery’s strength this offseason.
"He can take a hit in the chest and he doesn’t fall backwards, and some of those kinds of things," Stephen said. "He’s able to finish through contact offensively a little bit more. He’s become a little more explosive. He had a couple real high-flyer baseline drive dunks in Atlanta two weeks ago. He’s really progressing in that way. But he’s going to have to gain another 20-30 pounds still."
McCaffery will have plenty of time to add weight the next few weeks. He broke his left ring finger in Atlanta and will hopefully be back by the Adidas Gauntlet qualifier in Chicago over Memorial Day weekend, Stephen said.
June is a dead period for the Barnstormers, as players compete in team camps with their high schools. Then, in July, AAU ball picks up again, and the Barnstormers will participate in three big-time tournaments during an NCAA live recruiting period.
Coaches will be able to call McCaffery directly at that time.
"I don’t think it’s out of the question," Roe said when asked if he could see a school other than Iowa contacting McCaffery eventually. "It takes, what, a minute to call a kid and offer a scholarship if he’s that good?"
And the school that lands McCaffery might be able to bring other recruits in tow.
"He’s just got an electric personality that people really enjoy being around it and being part of his team," Stephen said. "And I think, again, if he decides to go to Iowa, I think there’s people that will want to go there because they want to play with him."
Matthew Bain covers preps, recruiting and the Hawkeyes for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewBain_.