McCaffery needs to usher hard-working freshmen out of the gym, wants minutes for Toussaint

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery had to deliver a fatherly lesson to his two freshmen last week, one of whom happens to be his son.

Patrick McCaffery and Joe Toussaint were in the Hawkeyes’ practice gym at Carver-Hawkeye Arena working out Friday. Well into the night.

Finally, around 11:30 p.m., Fran McCaffery had to turn the lights out and usher the roommates out of the building.

“It's one of the things about having the practice facility we have. Guys will be in there all hours of the night pretty much all year long. But especially after a game where they didn't feel like they shot it that well or we didn't play well, they want to get in there and get a workout. (Tyler) Cook used to do that a lot,” Fran McCaffery told reporters Wednesday.

“So at some point I'm going to go in there and say, ‘All right, you’ve got to go to bed.’ It's the law of diminishing returns. You got your shots up, got comfortable. You felt like you needed to do that. Now it's time to go eat and go to sleep.”

It’s a rite of passage for Iowa players. Junior center Luka Garza remembered McCaffery ordering him out of the gym last season after a frustrating loss to Wisconsin. Garza, a workhorse, also said he’d been shut out of the locker room on a couple of occasions. It automatically closes at midnight.

“I had my phone on me and I was with my dad (Frank)," Garza recalled of one such occasion. "We called the police or something and they had an extra key and got us in there."

“You want to get back in the gym as fast as you can (after a poor performance). And you’ve just got to be smart, because it's really early and we’ve got to take care of our bodies for the long season. It’s awesome to see those guys, especially so young, having that fire, that work ethic.”

Not that Garza still doesn’t stay up late on occasion practicing his sport. He’s just a little savvier as a junior. He brings something to prop open the locker room door so he can’t be shut out.

Iowa point guard Joe Toussaint returned to the court at Carver-Hawkeye Arena after Monday's loss to DePaul to work on his shooting. The freshman scored 13 points in a humbling 93-78 loss. Coach Fran McCaffery plans to play him more going forward.

Toussaint pushing for more playing time

Toussaint, a backup point guard from New York City, is averaging 11 points per game for the Hawkeyes (1-1). And that’s in 14 minutes per contest. He was the best player on the court late in Iowa’s 93-78 loss to DePaul on Monday.

McCaffery said he’s hoping to find more playing time for Toussaint, starting with Friday’s 7 p.m. home game against Oral Roberts (1-2).

“He pushes the ball. He's a guy that scores the ball. He's not just a driver. He's a finisher. He can throw a jumper in. He's made a couple 3s,” McCaffery said of Toussaint.

“I think he changes the pace. I think he was really good in our press.”

McCaffery praised Toussaint for his “competitive edge.” It might be time to see what that looks like earlier in games, while the outcome is still in the balance.

Hawkeyes have heart to heart about defense

Iowa was carved up by DePaul, which jumped out to a 19-2 lead and was never threatened. The Blue Demons followed up 63 percent shooting in the first half with a 59 percent effort in the second. The Hawkeye defense was ineffective throughout.

The Hawkeyes showed some physical limitations. But Iowa forward Jack Nunge said the biggest issue was poor communication on defense. The team simply didn’t play the way it has been practicing, he said.

“We held each other accountable in the locker room after the game,” Nunge said. “We talked about communicating switches, or even just staying in your stance more on their quick guys.”

It’s a problem Iowa needs to fix in a hurry, with upcoming games against the likes of Texas Tech, Michigan and Iowa State.

Can two centers coexist?

Nunge is Iowa’s starting power forward. But he spent much of Monday’s game on the bench after a slow start that included two missed shots and a turnover.

Backup center Ryan Kriener, a senior, was Iowa’s best player in Nunge’s absence. But that created another dilemma for McCaffery, who played Kriener at the “4” alongside Garza for extended minutes. The two are usually guarding each other in practice, not playing side by side.

“They're both physical. They both can score. They both can stretch the floor,” McCaffery said. “They were getting in each other's way a little bit, because they both typically play essentially the center position. So one has got to step out a little bit more maybe. One has got to be the trailer on the break. The other one has got to run to the spot.

“Either one of them can do that and they both can pass and catch. I think just getting them some more reps maybe in practice together, because they've been going against each other quite a bit.”

Kriener had 13 points in his 17 minutes against DePaul. Iowa needs that kind of production from whoever plays the power forward, so this might be the move as the season progresses.

Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.

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