NORTH LIBERTY – Steve Bergman chuckled when asked on Saturday if Patrick McCaffery had secured a spot on the Iowa City West varsity basketball team for next season.
“It looks like it,” Bergman said. “I’m an open-opportunity guy. I think he’s in the top eight or nine right now.”
The 6-foot-7 McCaffery, who is the son of Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery, is playing for West’s top team in the Corridor Classic this weekend despite having just completed the eighth grade. Patrick, along with his older brother Connor McCaffery, helped lead West to victories in all three of its games on Saturday at the North Liberty Community Center.
“He just hasn’t been at practice much,” Bergman said of Patrick McCaffery. “We’ve had a few practices to try and get organized. He’s the only guy that doesn’t know what we’re doing.
“So that’s tough at first. But he’s picking things up. I think every time he plays it’s a little better. He’s a very instinctful basketball player, but he hasn’t played our style of basketball.”
Bergman has led West High to five Class 4A state titles during his celebrated career as head coach. West failed to win a fourth consecutive state title in March, but four of the five starters on next year’s team have at least one Division I scholarship offer for basketball.
That includes 6-5 Connor McCaffery, who is committed to Iowa.
Throw Patrick McCaffery into the mix and Bergman has another talented piece to the puzzle. Patrick also has a scholarship offer from his father, but Patrick hasn’t gone public with his commitment to Iowa yet.
“He shoots threes very well, he puts it on the floor and is a good passer,” Bergman said of Patrick McCaffery. “He needs to get stronger, obviously. But that will come.”
This past year has been tough on Patrick McCaffery and his family. It started when Patrick learned in the spring of 2014 that he has a malignant tumor on his thyroid. Patrick is now recovering nicely after having surgery last spring.
However, he suffered a close personal loss when his friend Austin Schroeder succumbed to brain cancer in late April. Playing basketball helps Patrick cope with the loss.
Patrick’s talent is obvious, but he’s still learning to play in Bergman’s highly disciplined system.
“Where he was overwhelmed is he does not have a habit of when he passes he cuts or sets a screen the way we do or defends the way we do,” Bergman said. “But he’s so much better today than he was three weeks ago.”