By John Bohnenkamp
There was a time last season when Patrick McCaffery weighed less than his roommate, Joe Toussaint.
Which is a concern because McCaffery is nine inches taller than Toussaint and the two play significantly different positions on Iowa’s basketball team.
It’s why when, during the offseason, McCaffery bulked up.
The redshirt freshman forward now weighs 205 pounds, 15 pounds heavier than his listed weight last season.
That’s going to be important for McCaffery as he prepares for playing against bigger, stronger forwards in the Big Ten.
“It was an interesting process, for sure,” McCaffery said.
“He’s just gotten so much stronger,” said Toussaint, who started most of last season as a freshman at point guard. “He’s bulked up from last year. He put on a lot of weight.”
McCaffery, the son of Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, played in just two games last season before sitting out the rest of the season because of health issues related to his treatment for thyroid cancer in 2014.
Now, he’s competing for playing time in a crowded frontcourt.
“Physically, he looks great,” Fran McCaffery said. “He’s up to 205, which has been huge for him. It’s hard to play in this league at 182, where I think he played in high school.”
Patrick said it was difficult putting on the weight, one of his goals during the offseason, when he, and the rest of the team, were dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s not super difficult (keeping the weight) once I got it on,” Patrick said. “The hard part was getting it on. It was just a lot of food over quarantine. The biggest part of it was eating, forcing myself to eat.”
He also found, once he got back on the court, that having extra pounds wore him down.
“The hardest part was the conditioning,” Patrick said. “I didn’t realize the toll it would take at first. I came in about 25 pounds heavier than I ever had been before in my life.
“I used to be a skinny kid — I could run around and not get tired. When I came back in the summer, my conditioning was bad. So that was a hurdle I had to go through.”
“He’s put on weight, he looks really good,” said guard Connor McCaffery, Patrick’s brother. “I think he’s making improvements every single day.”
Patrick said sitting out last season was difficult, especially as the Hawkeyes improved on the way to a 20-win season that likely would have resulted in an NCAA tournament bid.
“That was hard,” he said. “I would say that is one of the harder things that goes unnoticed when you’re not playing. That’s been my whole life. I love to compete.
“It was a really fun season. So you know, not being out there, you feel really great for your teammates, you feel happy for your teammates and their success. But at the same time, that competitor inside is frustrated, down … I don’t really know how to put it.”
Patrick was able to practice with the team, which helped.
“That was my game, really, when you think about it,” he said. “That’s when I got to compete and got my competitive side out. Just not playing in the games, I guess that was hard.”
Patrick, who finished his high school career at Iowa City West as the program’s all-time leading scorer, thinks he can be a big part of Iowa’s offense.
“I’m a really versatile offensive player,” he said. “I can make jumpers, I’ve got a mid-range game, I can go to the rim, I can make stuff around the rim. I would say the best part of my game is what I’m able to do in transition, in terms of me getting out and going. I think I have a pretty good feel for how when a shot misses, I can take off if I’m not getting the rebound, and I can get some easy baskets, for sure.”
“Patrick is very skilled, very versatile,” Toussaint said. “He can do everything.”
“He’s going to bring another layer to the offense,” Connor McCaffery said. “Now, the added strength he’s put on is really going to be beneficial to him.”
Fran McCaffery knows Patrick’s importance at both ends of the court.
“I think defensively he’ll be a lot better because he’s more physical than he’s ever been able to play,” he said. “He was not a physical guy, so defensively his presence was pretty much (to) get some rebounds, block some shots because he’s taller.
“But now he’s fighting for traffic rebounds, he’s sliding his feet really well, keeping guys in front of him, fighting through screens because he’s going to be guarding guys that are going to be coming off … if you’re playing the 3 spot in our league you’re playing a guy who’s a killer. I don’t care who we play. That guy is a killer. So he’s going to get screened and they’re going to run stuff for that guy, so you can’t fall asleep, you’ve got to get back and guard. But he’s a talented offensive player.”
Patrick knows he has won one battle — he weighs more than his roommate.
“Joe definitely did weigh more than me at some point last year,” Patrick said, smiling. “I eventually did get past him. But it was always pretty close. Now it’s not pretty close anymore.”
Photo: Iowa’s Patrick McCaffery shoots over Kris Murray during a recent practice. (Stephen Mally/hawkeyesports.com)