Iowa basketball team adjusts to life without backup point guard Connor McCaffery

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Connor McCaffery’s freshman season on the Iowa basketball team appears to have ended after 53 minutes and eight points.

Iowa's Connor McCaffery looks for an open teammate during the Hawkeyes' game against Southern Utah at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017.

The backup point guard had a tonsillectomy Wednesday, and it's uncertain that he will return to full health in time to play again this winter, his father and coach, Fran McCaffery, told reporters Thursday.

“His body has not responded to recovering from mono and the strep. He had a very serious strain of strep, which the doctors felt required his tonsils to come out," Fran McCaffery said. "He can’t get his body back to where it needs to be. There’s no explosiveness at all, no conditioning."

Connor McCaffery dealt with an ankle injury at the beginning of the season, then came down with mononucleosis right when he was set to return. He battled back to appear in Iowa’s previous four games — all wins — but would grow quickly fatigued.

Iowa’s compliance staff believes Connor McCaffery would qualify for a medical hardship redshirt, and that’s an avenue that the Hawkeyes seem likely to explore. The final decision would be made by the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference after the university provides medical documentation.

“I would say it looks more and more like that would be the possibility because of how hard it’s been for him to get in any way, shape or form ready to play,” Fran McCaffery said, describing what it’s like to watch his son try to make it through a practice session.

“He’ll be really, really sucking wind. It’s just hard to play that way. Because you’re trying to process the gameplan and you’re trying to run what we want to run and you’re physically just so gassed that you can’t be effective. My concern is his physical well-being. I don’t want to put him out there and put him at risk of any further injury because his body has been so compromised.”

The result: Iowa (8-6) will be down to four scholarship guards for the duration of the season, which resumes at 7 p.m. Friday with the Hawkeyes' final nonconference game: at home against Northern Illinois (7-5). The game is not being televised.

Sophomores Jordan Bohannon and Isaiah Moss are the starting backcourt. Behind them are junior Brady Ellingson, who has returned to full health after his own ankle sprain, and sophomore Maishe Dailey.

McCaffery said he might have to start sliding forwards Nicholas Baer and Dom Uhl into the mix at guard as well.

Dailey’s rapidly growing role will only accelerate. He is coming off a career-high 16-point outing in last Friday’s win over Colorado and is emerging as a team leader.

“I don’t think anybody involved in our program was surprised. He has the ability,” McCaffery said of Dailey, who played sparingly as a freshman. “He’s a worker. He’s in the gym on his own. He thinks the game. He studies the game. He recognizes that we need him.

“As he develops and gets more minutes, then what you see is his confidence improving.”

McCaffery said he’ll be especially mindful of Bohannon’s workload in practices, now that he is the only point guard on the roster. He will pace Bohannon in practices so that he can play extended minutes in games.

“He’s in great shape. He can play 30-plus minutes twice a week, no question in my mind,” McCaffery said.