IOWA CITY, Iowa - Patrick McCaffery was asked what he learned in his first full season as a player, and he exhaled trying to prioritize the checklist.
“Oof,” the Iowa sophomore forward said, “there was a lot.”
And it really was a lot when McCaffery went through the lessons.
The speed on offense.
Learning the defense — when to switch, when to fight through screens.
Really, he said, it was about just learning everything.
And that’s been his first two seasons with the Hawkeyes — the few games and then the redshirt year as a true freshman, the 454-minutes-in-31-games classroom of the 2020-21 season.
He’s been eased into the rotation, but now, with a lot of experience gone and plenty of minutes available, McCaffery knows he has to be ready.
“Now, with that experience, I kind of know what to work on and what to expect this year, and at the end of the day help our team,” McCaffery said.
McCaffery averaged 5.2 points and 2.7 rebounds last season. But he also averaged 14.6 minutes per game, and he knows for that number to go up, he’s going to have to be physically prepared.
McCaffery’s true freshman season was about him getting stronger as he continued to battle the effects from the thyroid cancer treatment he had when he was in high school.
McCaffery wasn’t needed for substantial minutes last season because of the Hawkeyes’ experience, especially in the frontcourt. He was fine with that.
“I wasn’t really thrown in the fire like that,” he said. “I wasn’t playing 30 minutes a game. I was able to get my feet wet, kind of observe things, and see them from both perspectives.”
The on-court time was learn-as-you-go, and McCaffery appreciated the opportunity.
“There’s nothing like being out there,” he said. “Redshirting really helped me in terms of my body. But there’s nothing like being out there on the floor, when you see different things. That’s the best way to learn. I was kind of able to slowly do that, and I was able to kind of show that at the end of the year, when I was able to get comfortable and the game slowed down and I got better. I feel like that was something I was able to work on.”
Iowa loses three key pieces from the frontcourt. Center Luka Garza, the consensus national player of the year, is gone. His backup, Jack Nunge, transferred. Joe Wieskamp, a mainstay at the ‘3’ throughout his Iowa career, has entered the NBA Draft.
That opens opportunities, but McCaffery knows he has to be ready for the minutes that come with that. He’s 6-foot-9 and weighs 190 pounds, and he knows he has to be stronger and have the stamina to play more.
“I’d say that’s really something in the offseason I’ve tried to push through, and something I’ve really tried to work on,” McCaffery said. “I’m way better than I was at this point last year. I think that’s something I’m going to keep working through, keep trying to get better at.
“Because at the end of the day, playing the minutes I want to play, I need to have good stamina. I need my teammates to be able to count on me, so that’s something I’ve been working on, something I’ve been taking seriously.”