IOWA CITY, Ia. — After a year filled with medical setbacks, Connor McCaffery is feeling healthier, relieved and charging forward in his two-sport plan at the University of Iowa.
“A 100 percent,” he told the Des Moines Register on Tuesday night. “I’m getting back into how I was expecting things to be.”
What was expected in his freshman year? That he would red-shirt in basketball and play full-time with Rick Heller’s baseball team.
What happened? Anything but.
Pressed into basketball duty after Christian Williams’ surprise transfer before the season, McCaffery’s repeated health issues — an ankle injury, mononucleosis, severe strep throat and a late-December tonsillectomy — sapped his body of strength and kept him to the sidelines.
The recovery took months. Now, though, he’s feeling as good as he has in a while.
“Way better than during the basketball season, that’s for sure,” he said.
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McCaffery has been a full participant with the baseball team lately — practices, lifting, hitting sessions. The 6-foot-5 first baseman/outfielder has a spot on Heller’s 35-man roster, so he dresses for home games — but doesn’t go on the road.
“I do every bit of stuff that the team does. I do all of that,” McCaffery said. “I just don’t actually play in the games. I practice the same. I do all of it.”
With the baseball team playing its 30th game of the season Wednesday, McCaffery looks to be on track to red-shirting.
When baseball has its Monday off day or the team is on a weekend road trip, McCaffery will work out with the basketball team, which is coached by his father, Fran McCaffery.
Connor McCaffery did get good news in basketball recently, when the Big Ten Conference approved his medical-hardship waiver — allowing him to retain four years of eligibility in hoops despite playing in four games in December.
“Definitely a relief,” McCaffery said. “Getting that, I was obviously really excited.”
It remains an ambitious plan, trying to play two major sports at a Power Five Division I institution while maintaining the necessary locker-room camaraderie with players from both teams.
But after an unexpected and challenging first year of college, McCaffery wants to give multiple sports another try in Year Two.
Connor McCaffery's two-sport plan at Iowa has become a zero-sport reality this school year, as he hasn’t played much basketball or baseball after repeated illnesses. Here, he talks with Chad Leistikow while in Ann Arbor, Mich.