Why Patrick McCaffery decided to 'pull the trigger' and commit to the Iowa Hawkeyes

Matthew Bain
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — For as much as everyone expected it, and as much as he and his family already knew where he was going, Patrick McCaffery’s commitment to Iowa Thursday night came out of the blue.

Iowa City West's Patrick McCaffery (22) cheers by the bench as the final seconds tick away during their 4A state basketball championship game on Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Des Moines. Iowa City West would go on to win 64-50

His dad — head coach Fran McCaffery — was talking about a house Patrick’s older brother, Connor McCaffery, would live in as an Iowa sophomore next year (redshirt freshman for basketball). He told Patrick he’d show him the house, too.  After all, he said, Patrick would live there when he was a Hawkeye.

"And I was like, 'Can I just commit?'" Patrick told HawkCentral Thursday night, remembering the conversation. "And he’s like, 'Yeah, you want to do it tomorrow?' I said, 'Meh. I was just going to do it right now.' And he was like, 'OK, just make sure you tell your mother first.'

"I just realized that I’m not going to get any opportunity like I would at Iowa. Playing in front of my mom every game, in front of the rest of my family, with my brother, for my dad. I just wasn't going to get any other opportunity or experience like that and that’s going to be a really special part of my life. That made me pull the trigger."

After calling his mom, McCaffery immediately texted Connor, who replied with a long text about how he and Patrick "would do special things together." He also texted his AAU coach, then sent out the commitment tweet that spurred a frenzy of excitement on Hawkeye Twitter.

With good reason.

West High's Patrick McCaffery (22) and Connor McCaffery head into a timeout during their game against City High at West High on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016.

McCaffery, a 6-foot-8 wing/forward combo, is a potential McDonald’s All-American recruit. He's a consensus four-star prospect. Rivals ranks him 30th nationally, Scout ranks him 42nd and the 247Sports Composite ranks him 36th.

Rivals has rated its top 150 players since 2003, and McCaffery is the highest-rated recruit since then. Next-closest? Joe Wieskamp, the No. 40 player in the Class of 2018. Those two, plus Connor, are major pieces of what has developed into a future full of Sweet 16 — Elite Eight? — potential for the Hawkeyes.

"It’s a really special time for Iowa basketball," Patrick said. "They’re really on the rise, so it’s really cool to be a part of that — kind of in the middle of it, be in the midst of all of it. So I’m going to work on some of my friends that are pretty good and try to get them to come with me."

McCaffery's current 2019 targets to bring with him to Iowa: Four-star point guard D.J. Carton of Bettendorf, four-star power forward Trace Jackson-Davis of Greenwood, Indiana, and Minneapolis point guard Tyrell Terry. McCaffery is Iowa's first 2019 recruit; the program has two open slots left.

Iowa never really had any competition for McCaffery. Miami of Ohio talked to him a bit recently. Arizona sent him a letter a couple years ago. But nothing serious.

"Everybody kind of knew this was how it was going to be," McCaffery said.

So other than family, why Iowa?

"My dad really lets his guys play," McCaffery said. "He lets them play through mistakes and everything like that, and so I’ll play a lot on the wing and be able to play through my mistakes and be able to just play with freedom. I won’t have to worry about, 'If I miss, I’m coming out,' because he lets everybody play. And they also run a really nice fast break, it’s really fast. I’m pretty mobile in transition and I like getting buckets in transition. That’s a big part of my game so it’ll translate well once I get there."

McCaffery can now focus on improving his game and winning two more state championships in his junior and senior seasons at state powerhouse Iowa City West. He averaged 13.8 points on 60.6 percent shooting to help West win a Class 4A state title last year. (He also shot 34 percent from 3-point land … as a 6-8 sophomore.)

If there’s been one consistent knock on his game, it’s been his weight. McCaffery’s a lean kid who spread about 165 pounds over his 6-8 frame last year.

He’s been on a consistent nutrition and weight-lifting regimen since the high school season ended last year. He said he’s up to about 175 pounds, but he feels stronger than he ever has. He said he especially notices that improved strength when he rebounds against fellow bigs or plays through contact.

Basketball analysts HawkCentral has spoken with throughout the offseason say the same thing.

"I’m better with physicality of the game," McCaffery said "and that’s obviously going to increase in college. In the Big Ten, it’s one of the most physical conferences in the country, so I’ve got to be ready for that."

He's got time to prepare. And it certainly helps he's got a Big Ten coach and player to work with at home.

Matthew Bain covers preps, recruiting and the Hawkeyes for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at mbain@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewBain_.