By John Bohnenkamp
Connor McCaffery’s back is bothering him.
It’s probably an issue related to his offseason hip surgeries, he said.
“I’m getting old,” the fifth-year senior said, laughing.
The Iowa guard is a veteran on a team that can use experience, but he knows his role has changed from past seasons.
He’s no longer a regular in the starting lineup after starting 62 games the last two seasons — he has started twice this season. He’s averaging 1.1 points and 2.6 rebounds while playing just 16.2 minutes per game.
But McCaffery has accepted his role on this team. He’s OK with being an experienced voice, willing to help younger players.
“Try to pick us up when we’re down,” he said. “I’ve never been afraid to speak up, so I’m trying to continue to do that.
“Just trying to build them up at all times. Just to continue to do that, as somebody who’s been through it and seen it all. Be there for them.”
Not being in the starting lineup, McCaffery said, isn’t a problem.
“It hasn’t really bothered me,” he said. “I’ve tried to come in, affect the games in certain ways. It’s been a little different type of season for me.”
McCaffery has been a steadying influence on the court for the Hawkeyes in the last two seasons. He was fourth in the nation with a 3.73 assist-to-turnover ratio last season after leading the nation in that category in the 2019-20 season.
But the Hawkeyes are deep in the backcourt this season. Junior Joe Toussaint and sophomore Ahron Ulis are getting the point-guard minutes, and Jordan Bohannon and Tony Perkins are taking the minutes at the ‘2.’
McCaffery’s versatility is still important — he’s guarded every position in his time with the Hawkeyes — but the minutes aren’t quite the same.
That’s fine, he said.
“My approach has definitely changed. It’s changed from what I’ve learned and what I’ve seen,” McCaffery said. “Every game is a new experience, every game is something that brings new challenges.
“If I can help people in any way, that’s what I’m going to do, whether I’m playing a lot or not.”
McCaffery has scored just 11 points this season. He has made just 3-of-16 shots from the field, but he has 23 assists against just three turnovers.
“At the end of the day what I really want is to win. I could play zero minutes and it really wouldn’t matter to me,” he said. “I still try to affect our team, and be somebody they can come to with questions.
“I could play the best game of the season, score 20, have 10 assists, and if we lose I’ll still be pissed off. I could play zero minutes, have zero points, and if we win I’ll be as happy as anyone else. So it really doesn’t bother me either way.”
McCaffery’s time with the Hawkeyes has been long, and it’s developed a new outlook. He’s been a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, but even a B in a class, something he said could happen this semester, doesn’t bother him.
“I feel like, at this point, my motivation has dropped from what it used to be, just for being here as long as I have,” McCaffery said, smiling. “I can take a B.”
Photo: Iowa’s Connor McCaffery has taken a veteran’s outlook to this season. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)