Connor McCaffery has been wrestling with the decision for months now and finally figured it was time to end all the contemplation and speculation.
He is going to play baseball at the University of Iowa. And also basketball.
But his first appearance in a Hawkeye uniform will be with coach Rick Heller’s baseball team.
The son of Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery still is intent on playing both sports at the college level, but as a freshman next school year he will only play baseball while taking a redshirt year in basketball. He will not be on scholarship in either sport.
Connor made the announcement on Twitter on Friday morning, ending a decision-making process that he admitted has been stressful, confusing, grueling and fun all at the same time.
“It’s definitely been on my mind,’’ he said. “People are speculating about what you’re going to do and I kind of just wanted to get it over with, answer everybody’s questions. It just got to be time. That’s why I’m kind of relieved today to just get it out of the way.’’
Fran McCaffery said he also was relieved and happy to have the situation resolved.
“Very happy because he’s happy,’’ Fran said. “The hardest thing for me throughout the process was I think in some ways he wanted me to recruit him and make sure I wanted him, which I surely did. But I didn’t want to pressure him and make him feel like he has to commit to come in and help us. I wanted him to sort out what he wanted to do …
“I think I tried harder to be a father rather than a coach during this process.’’
Connor will be attempting to do something his father admitted he never has had any player do during his 32-year coaching career.
“Nothing like this where his expectation is going to be to contribute in both sports,’’ Fran said. “We had some guys who did a little bit of track because with that they can just show up and perform. A couple of football players played for us when I was at Notre Dame but they were not really contributors. So this is a little different.’’
Connor is rated very high as a prospect in both sports, which is what made the decision so difficult.
He led Iowa City West to the Class 4A state championship in basketball over the winter, averaging 19.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game, and is viewed by his dad as a 6-foot-6 point guard with the versatility to play other positions. But he also is a power-hitting, lefthanded first baseman-outfielder who batted .407 while leading his high school team to a 35-7 record and a state runnerup finish last summer.
Connor considered going to prep school at Cheshire Academy in Connecticut and playing both sports there to give him another year to sort out his thoughts, but he finally decided after a conversation with his parents a few days ago that it was time to begin college.
He knows the biggest problem probably won’t be hitting the curve ball and finding the open man. It will be juggling his schedule to accommodate two sports whose seasons overlap by at least a month.
“Obviously, it’s going to take an incredible ability to manage time because you’re also throwing in the academic component,’’ Fran said. “So he’s going to be lifting but he can’t be lifting both for them and for us. We’ve got to figure out the program that makes the most sense for his body.’’
Fran said Iowa has facilities that will allow Connor to take practice swings or shoot the ball almost any time he wants, but he also is going to want to play some pickup games and face some live pitching, too.
“We’ve got to make sure we don’t overload him to where he’s doing 4½ to 5 hours every day,’’ he added. “That’s too much. That’s going to take some communication and some planning.’’
For the immediate future, Connor will play his final baseball season for Iowa City West, then almost immediately dive into workouts with the Iowa baseball team and activities with the basketball team.
Both teams are taking foreign trips in August — the basketball team to Germany, the baseball team to Taiwan — and he’s not sure yet if he will participate in one or both of those.
He made it clear that although he won’t be playing for the basketball team next winter, he still regards both sports as equals. He still plans to go through every practice, attend every film session and be on the bench for every game in basketball. He just won’t be playing right away.
He said he’s just eager to get going.
“I want to win a Big Ten championship in each sport and then play in the NCAA tournament in basketball and hopefully advance far and also in baseball, play tournament ball and hopefully advance there,’’ he said. “I think both programs are going to get better in the times I’m here.’’