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Patrick McCaffery Is Taking a Leave of Absence from Iowa Basketball. What Does this Mean for He and the Team?

If anyone deserves a clean bill of health, it is Patrick McCaffery. 

Iowa v Wisconsin Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

The past two weeks have been some of the worst the Iowa men’s basketball team has experienced in some time. The Hawkeyes followed up an historically bad performance against Eastern Illinois with consecutive conference losses against Nebraska and Penn State which dropped their Big Ten record to 0-3 on the year. Unfortunately for Iowa, the bad news doesn’t appear to be stopping any time soon.

Hawkeye basketball star Patrick McCaffery announced his intention to take an indefinite leave of absence from the team on Wednesday, citing mounting struggles with anxiety which are impacting his health off the court and his performance on it. As McCaffery outlined in his statement, his anxiety “has affected (his) sleep, appetite, and stamina and has resulted in not having the energy level necessary to compete at (his) full capabilities.” While McCaffery has excelled for much of the year, the past three games have seen an uncharacteristic drop-off in his performance, with the starting small forward averaging only 6.7 points per game and shooting 5-30 from the field and 3-15 from three. McCaffery noted that his absence “might be two games, it may be four games, it may be more, but I will return when I feel like myself.”

McCaffery’s announcement is obviously cause for concern. Patrick has become a fan favorite thanks to his tenacious play, multi-level scoring ability, leadership, and advocacy for children diagnosed with pediatric cancer. As a thyroid cancer survivor himself who struggled with health and stamina early in his collegiate career, it is devastating that McCaffery’s anxiety has had such a negative impact on his health and wellness that it has forced him to temporarily step away from the game he loves. On a basketball level, Patrick’s absence is a huge blow for a team that already appears to be headed in the wrong direction. Iowa’s thin front court depth will be further tested, and players like Kris Murray, Payton Sandfort, and Patrick’s brother Connor will be called on to assume even larger roles while he is out.

On the other hand, there are a few positives which can be gleaned from this scenario. First, it is worth celebrating that the Hawkeye program is infused with a culture healthy enough that a player felt comfortable choosing to temporarily step away from the game to protect his health, as well as the fact that Patrick had enough self-awareness and perspective to understand that such a step was warranted. Secondly, fans can rest easy knowing that his leave of absence is not related to his history with thyroid cancer, a point which McCaffery clarified in his statement. Finally, Hawkeye fans can rest easy knowing that, when McCaffery does return to the team, he will be welcomed back with open arms and will be given the support he needs to resume what was shaping up to be an excellent season. Hopefully this leave of absence gives Patrick the time he needs to restore his health and will result in him returning to the poised, confident, joyful player Hawkeye fans have been accustomed to seeing during his time in the black and gold.