Hello! Long time no talk! I’m back, with another press conference recap. Only this time, we’re recapping Fran McCaffery talking to the media during Iowa Basketball’s media day, which was held yesterday in Carver.
Who needs football, right? It’s basketball season! Let’s turn the page — the Hawkeyes under Fran McCaffery have never let us down! Can we get Fran to have a meeting with Brian Ferentz? Maybe he can teach him how to score points. Then Fran can walk down the hall and learn from Phil Parker how to actually build a defense.
Let’s get into it. Check out the full transcript here, and my highlights below. This should be a nice change of pace from reading paragraph upon paragraph that says absolutely nothing in response to a perfectly valid question.
Q. Fran, now that Rebraca has had a year in your system, how do you think he’ll be more productive?
FRAN McCAFFERY: He’s been great all summer, all fall. Energy level, confidence level, every aspect of the game. I’ve said this before; he has way more offense in his game than we saw last year. It was good at times, and it was pretty good in general. But I think you’ll see a more aggressive offensive player.
But defensively he’s spectacular. I mean, guarding ball screens, close and recover, guarding smaller people. He’s all over the glass. His energy level is great. He’s in great shape physically. He’s mature. He’s been around. He’s playing with a great deal of confidence right now.
A great first question. I was not a fan of Rebraca at all last year. His footwork was solid but his defense left a bit to be desired, and he basically did nothing on offense. So anything will be an improvement here, I’d say. I wonder how long of a leash he’ll have.
Q. In what ways do you expect Filip to take another step forward, and do you feel him growing in that role?
FRAN McCAFFERY: Yeah, I think Filip is just going to be a more confident guy ... I also think his minutes will be great. He played a lot of minutes last year, was a starter for us, but he’s going to be out there a lot. We need him out there.
I guess a decently long leash.
What have you seen from Kris with his increased role this year?
FRAN McCAFFERY: You know, he’s playing with a lot of confidence. I think what he did last spring was really good for him ...
He’s a very even-tempered guy, but he’s also really smart. So he knows what he’s capable of, and he knows what our team needs from him.
He’s accepting that responsibility. He’s been way more aggressive offensively. Not that he wasn’t last year; he certainly was. But I think defensively he’s always in the right place.
Last year he was late sometimes getting in foul trouble, limited his minutes. He hasn’t been doing that. He’s been really aggressive on the glass, because we certainly need that without Keegan. We need to go back to his freshman year without Luka. We need he and Filip to really pound the glass.
An even tempered, smart basketball player with the last name Murray? Sounds like another guy I know. I’m extremely curious about Kris this season. If he has half of Keegan’s production from last season, this team has a lot of potential. But obviously he’s also now in Keegan’s shadow and could be thrust into a role he doesn’t want to be in because of Keegan’s rise to stardom. I have no indication that that is actually the case, but it’s interesting to think about. Things could get sour quickly if he’s not producing to Keegan-like levels immediately and I don’t think that would be fair.
Speaking of that...
Q. Talk about the challenge for Kris this year, overcoming comparisons to his brother and maybe some of the other challenges.
FRAN McCAFFERY: I think that’s a very fair question. I would hope that people would just judge him — we’re watching Kris. Kris is playing for us. We’re all Kings fans. We love Keegan and hope he’s the Rookie of the Year. We’re so proud of him. He was MVP of the Summer League. The leading scorer in the game the other night, his first game. We just couldn’t be happier for him, but he’s not here — Kris is here, and it’s Kris’ turn.
I think it’ll be great for him. He’ll miss his brother. Those guys were incredibly close, but we need him to do a lot of different things for this basketball team to be successful, and he’s going to have that opportunity. He’s on a big stage. He can get it off the glass and push it himself. He can shoot 3s when he wants. He can post-up when he wants. He’s going to be out there most of the time unless he’s in foul trouble. Like I said, he’s been really good with that defensively. I’ve been really impressed with him being in the right place. I’m excited for him. I think he’s excited for it, as well.
Well, there’s the answer there that he’s excited for the challenge he faces. But I really like the way Fran puts this. [Keegan’s] not here, Kris is here. I think that will be important for us all to remember.
Q. Defensively your team made strides last year; do you think they can take it up another step this year?
FRAN McCAFFERY: I think we can. We have the ability to do that. We can put pressure on the ball. We can be in the passing lane. When you start looking at defensive numbers, it comes down to rebounding because if you’re giving up second shots, typically that’s a high-percentage shot. It’s an offensive rebound kick-out, open 3, it’s an offensive rebound put-back that’s a high-percentage shot.
Man, did this program struggle with rebounding last year. I like seeing this answer, because those second chance opportunities really hurt this team last year. This needed to be an emphasis in the offseason, let’s hope it transfers to the court.
Q. How do you see the point guard situation in terms of who’s going to play and how much, or is it just too soon to even know that?
FRAN McCAFFERY: I think it’s pretty soon. I mean, Ahron Ulis has been really good, Desonte has been really good. I’ve put Tony there some. Then we put Payton at the 2 spot, and we can go that route if we want to. Connor can play it.
So we have a number of different options there that I’m very comfortable with.
...We’ve got a lot of different guys who can score the basketball, and that’s always a good thing.
This is a staple of the program under Fran: for better or worse, we’re going to see a lot of guys get playing time. I’d be starting Tony Perkins there personally and giving him the vast majority of the minutes, but I do have an appreciation for Fran’s constant willingness to try new things. We’ll see how this goes. We have a whole non-conference slate to figure it out.
Q. When did you cross the confidence line with Tony Perkins because he played some really good basketball for you down the stretch, and what about this year? Where is he going to go from here?
FRAN McCAFFERY: Well, I think the first step for him was his freshman year when we had some injuries, and we put him in there and he produced ... Was playing well, and so we made a decision to put J-Bo back at the point, and I think that was clearly what’s best for him and what was best for our team.
Then I felt like in that sense, we were going to slide Tony into that 2 spot, and he was absolutely terrific.
I think he understood that we needed to make that change, and he needed to be a guy that was involved in stepping up and helping take our team to the next level, which is exactly what he did.
Tony is a true team-first guy and I applaud it. It’s clear Fran does, too. Not sure why he didn’t answer the second part of the question though. I don’t think it’s concerning, but it’s strange. Tony is probably the second most important person on the roster in my opinion.
Q. What have you seen out of Josh Dix so far?
FRAN McCAFFERY: Well, I’m impressed with him. The kid, we all saw how horrific an injury he had. Not many people come back that quickly. He was really smart and diligent with his rehab. He didn’t rush it. It was hard for him in the nine weeks we had him here in June and July that he didn’t get the chance to — he was on the court but he was just doing 1-on-0 really. On Sept. 1 he started going 5-on-5, and he hasn’t missed one minute of practice since. He has had some great days of practice where he has been absolutely spectacular, and there have been some days when he’s clearly learning, but physically he looks really good.
This is great to hear. I hope that the staff is cautious with his minutes, especially in the non-conference slate, but regardless, I’m extremely happy to hear that he’s recovered so well. He could be a really impactful player for the program down the line.
Let’s end here:
Q. You put out a letter for us with accomplishments in the last five seasons. Do you feel like your program is perhaps as good as it’s ever been right now and poised to continue the arc upward?
FRAN McCAFFERY: Well, I think that was the plan when I came here, when Mr. Barta hired me. That’s what we hoped would happen.
I think you’ve seen a shift with how some coaches are doing it. They’re building a team one year to another. I don’t view myself as an AAU coach; I view myself as somebody who’s going to continue to build a program.
So my hope is to continue along that path of success and continue to get better. I think this team is very capable of doing just that, but then the challenge will be to do it next year and the year after that and the year after that.
First off: calling Gary “Mr. Barta” is interesting to me...secondly, I think we get a good confirmation of something we’ve known for awhile that Fran is building a program and a culture and is finding success because of it. He talked earlier in the press conference about how Keegan went from an underrated player to an NBA lottery pick, and how hopefully players will notice that and want to play at Iowa. That’s building a program. I also went to the outdoor basketball event last week, and Fran spoke briefly and talked about how honored (his words) he is to be the coach of the program, and how he cares so much about character. I think for all the shit Fran gets from the outside world about his in-game temper, etc, this is a guy who cares for his players first and foremost, and I really appreciate that.
There’s a lot more that I didn’t cover here, so make sure to check out the full transcript here. Iowa Basketball kicks off with an exhibition matchup against Truman State on October 31, and starts regular season action on November 7 against Bethune Cookman. Go Hawks!