After months of speculation, we finally have an answer about Connor McCaffery's future at Iowa. Will he play basketball? Will he play baseball? Will he play both? Will he walk on? Will he be on scholarship? Here's the answer, straight from Connor himself:
This is the plan for next year GO HAWKS I'm excited to get started. Let's go to work pic.twitter.com/wzhpDGgYQs— Connor McCaffery (@connor_m30) April 28, 2017
So the plan for now is still to play both -- we just won't be seeing him on the court at Carver-Hawkeye Arena until fall 2018. He'll be playing for Iowa baseball before that in spring 2018. And for the time being he'll be a walk on athlete in both sports. We've known that playing both sports was an option for a while and in fact this particular situation was something Fran McCaffery had alluded to in an interview a few weeks ago.
As he said in his comment, he still has a lot of passion for both sports, which is understandable. He's had a lot of success in both sports as well, as noted by Hawk Central:
McCaffery led West basketball to a 23-3 season and a Class 4A state title this year. He averaged 19.6 points per game on 51.8 percent shooting (41 percent from long range), 4.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.8 steals per game.
He hit .407 for West's state runner-up team last summer. He led the team with eight home runs and four triples. He also logged 10 doubles and 33 RBI.
It's certainly unusual to see a Top 100 basketball recruit like McCaffery deferring the start of his college career like this, but this is also a very unique situation. This decision also opens up the possibility of him being able to play three years with his young brother, Patrick McCaffery (an even more heralded hoops recruit so far), at Iowa, rather than just two, which may have been a factor.
Connor's decision to be a walk on next year, coupled with Dale Jones' recent move to North Dakota, untangles the scholarship knot that Iowa basketball had found found itself in earlier this year. Peter Jok and Dale Jones are gone this year, with their scholarships being replaced by incoming recruits Jack Nunge and Luka Garza. Technically there still wouldn't be room for Connor to be on a basketball scholarship in 2018-19, either. Iowa is only slated to lose one player after the 2017-18 season (Dom Uhl) and Iowa already has a verbal commitment from a Class of 2018 recruit for that scholarship (Joe Wieskamp, another Top 100 recruit). But a lot can happen between now and then, so there's not much point in worrying about scholarship math a year from now.
On the court, Connor's decision will have a definite impact on Iowa basketball next season. Not having the services of a Top 100 recruit is certainly disappointing, although Iowa is still adding two exciting recruits in Nunge and Garza and obviously returns a host of promising players from the 2016-17 season. But McCaffery was also slated to help Iowa at point guard, which is a definite area of need for Iowa. Jordan Bohannon had a sensational freshman season, but he can't play 40 minutes a game -- especially not at the fast tempo Fran wants Iowa to play at next season. When we thought McCaffery would be playing basketball next year, the assumption was that he would be able to help back up Bohannon. That appears to be off the table now, at least until 2018-19. Christian Williams looks like the biggest beneficiary of McCaffery's decision, as he figures to be the clear back-up point guard to Bohannon. Hopefully his offensive game makes some big strides this offseason.
While McCaffery's decision and future plans have mainly been viewed through a basketball prism, his decision today is also a very intriguing development for the Iowa baseball team. As noted by his stats above, he can absolutely rake, so adding his bat to Iowa's lineup next year is a very exciting idea (with the caveat that Big Ten baseball is a different beast than high school baseball in Iowa, of course). Iowa baseball has improved greatly under Rick Heller and McCaffery's addition could boost them even further. At present, they're slated to lose only one key hitter (SS Mason McCoy), although record-breaking slugger Jake Adams is a junior and could decide to test the draft waters. If McCaffery is able to get up to speed at the college level quickly, Iowa could have a really strong squad next year.
Overall, it's nice just to finally have some clarity on what Connor's plans are and how things are set to proceed for Iowa basketball and Iowa baseball. Plans can always change, but at least now we know what to expect from Connor next season and we can put the endless speculation to rest for a while. We remain excited to see what he can do in Iowa City -- on the court and on the diamond.