Youth Olympic Games Another Learning Experience for Patrick McCaffery
After instant success in 3x3 at U18 National Championships, the Iowa commit is growing due to the format.
Patrick McCaffery has played in only two competitive 3x3 basketball tournaments. But, the senior at West High School in Iowa City, Iowa, already has proven himself worthy of a shot at international glory.
The 6-foot-7, 185-pound small forward will join Dudley Blackwell, Jyare Davis and Carson McCorkle in representing USA Basketball in the 20-team boys bracket at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from Oct. 6-18.
“I really like the group of guys, and we get along really well,” said McCaffery, whose father, Fran, coaches at Iowa, where Patrick will play in college. “I think we have a chance to make some noise in Argentina. So I’m excited.”
McCaffery, Blackwell, Davis and McCorkle were paired together on Team Quest for the first time at the 2018 USA Basketball 3x3 U18 National Championship in March in Colorado Springs, Colorado. They went 8-0, capped off by a 21-16 win over the Spartans for the gold medal. McCaffery was named tournament MVP. Their camaraderie and cohesiveness with little prep time impressed the selection committee, which picked Team Quest to represent the U.S. in the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires.
The quartet also won its division at the Spokane Hoopfest in June. The only other time the players got together was in August when they worked out and scrimmaged with the 3x3 open division national team in New York.
“At first, it was definitely more of a lesson,” McCaffery said of the New York camp. “Because 3x3 is a different game than all of us are used to, so they just kind of taught us how to play it better, taught us all the little tricks, nuances of the game.”
McCaffery enjoys the change from the traditional five-on-five full-court game. In 3x3, games are played on half a court to 21 points or whoever is leading at the end of the 10-minute game clock, with baskets counting as one or two points (from behind the traditional 3-point line) and a 12-second shot clock. The small-sided format has helped him develop his game.
“They’re both different games; I like both of them,” McCaffery said. “3x3, it really suits my game very well, because there’s a lot of space, and I play better when I play in space. It’s better in that aspect, but five-on-five I have been playing my whole life, and nothing can ever really replace that.”
Unlike five-on-five, you can’t just specialize in one aspect of the game in 3x3.
“It helps the team a lot more if you can dribble past (your defender) and shoot,” McCaffery said. “You have to be versatile on offense for that to work. If you only have two guys on offense who can do stuff, it makes it a lot easier for the defense to cover you. Everyone being a weapon out on the floor is big.”
McCaffery knew he had to work on his game after participating in the 2018 USA Basketball Men’s U18 National Team trials in early June and not making the team that eventually won the FIBA Americas U18 Championship.
“I learned a lot on how to make quicker decisions,” McCaffery said. “At the next level, everybody is going to be bigger, faster, stronger and more athletic. So, just being able to make those quick decisions, and make those quick reads and make those snap decisions, was just really big for me. Like, if I catch (the ball) on the wing, being ready to shoot, dribble or pass right away.”
McCaffery’s young career took a detour in 2014 when he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. But after two surgeries and medication, McCaffery says his day-to-day life is only affected by having to wake up at 6 a.m. to take medication and keeping an eye on his diet. He does get tired more quickly, and his body is a bit more fragile.
“I still meet with doctors,” said McCaffery, who says the appointments get further apart as he has continued to progress in controlling his condition.
McCaffery, who is a top-100 recruit in the senior class, still gets a lot of pointers from his dad and mom. Margaret McCaffery was a standout player at Notre Dame. Older brother Connor also plays for the Hawkeyes.
“My dad comes to the majority of our open gyms,” Patrick McCaffery said. “Every opportunity he gets to come see me play, he comes. He always says something, always gives me a little bit of advice. We talk about certain possessions, and certain things that happened and things I could do differently moving forward.”
And to say that he is looking forward to playing with Connor and for his dad a year from now is an understatement. Patrick says his dad hasn’t coached the two boys together since Patrick was in second grade. The brothers played together in high school for two years.
“I’m really excited,” he said. “I’ve never been as excited as I am to get to college.”