Oct. 13, 2010
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IOWA CITY, Iowa – – Despite excelling in basketball and football at Bishop Heelan (Iowa) High School, Zach McCabe always knew which sport he wanted to pursue in college.
“I always worked hard at basketball,” said McCabe, one of six freshmen on the University of Iowa men’s basketball team. “It was kind of my thing growing up. In high school, it was a little tough knowing that schools were looking at me for both sports, but once I knew they were pursuing me more for basketball I got pretty excited.”
During his prep career, McCabe helped lead his team to back-to-back state basketball championships as a junior and senior. He averaged 19.1 points and 8.6 rebounds his senior campaign and was named the Iowa Class 3A Player of the Year and first team all-state.
On the gridiron, he boasted a 35-4 record as a three-year starting quarterback and guided the Crusaders to the state championship his junior season while finishing second as a sophomore. Last fall, he broke Heelan’s single-game (465 yards) and single-season (2,461 yards) passing records and threw 21 touchdowns, while being recognized as a first team all-state quarterback.
The native of Sioux City says that there are lessons learned as a quarterback that can help him on the basketball court.
“As a quarterback, you’re scanning the field looking for passes and making sure the opponent doesn’t intercept the ball,” said McCabe. “It’s kind of the same concept in basketball when you’re driving down the court. When I have the basketball in my hands, I can see my surroundings a lot better.”
McCabe grew up wanting to be a Hawkeye. Ever since he was little, he watched the likes of Dean Oliver, Reggie Evans and Luke Recker. He enjoyed watching the Hawkeyes and seeing them succeed. Which former Hawkeye was his favorite?
“My dad always told me about Jess Settles,” McCabe said. “When I was in high school I would look him up and watch clips from his games. I was told that I played like him, so I kind of want to mold my game after him.”
McCabe is ecstatic to be on campus and wants to make an immediate impact with the team.
“I’m excited to be here and help in any way I can,” said McCabe. “Whether it’s scoring, rebounding or making hustle plays, I want to do whatever it takes for us to win.”
McCabe has made a good first impression on his head coach; Fran McCaffery likes McCabe’s work ethic and thinks he has a bright future.
“Zach is going to be tremendous here,” said McCaffery. “He’s strong, he’s tough and he’s versatile. He can put it on the deck, he can make outside shots and he has a low-post game. Zach is kind of a no-nonsense guy that has a real good feel for how to play.”
McCaffery said McCabe is physically ready to see immediate minutes and can be a contender for the freshman all-Big Ten team.
“I’m excited to be here and help in any way I can. Whether it’s scoring, rebounding or making hustle plays, I want to do whatever it takes for us to win.”
Freshman Zach McCabe
“He’s going to play a lot right away,” added McCaffery. “He’s going to be a guy that is going to have a major impact immediately.”
McCabe enjoyed playing basketball in the Prime Time League (PTL) this past summer, which gave him an opportunity to compete against college competition and work on improving certain aspects of his game.
“At the beginning of the summer I was just looking to shoot the ball, but as the weeks went on I was driving more and making plays for other teammates,” said the 6-foot-7 forward. “Playing in the PTL helped me a lot because it gave me a taste of college experience. You’re playing bigger and stronger players and that’s how it’s going to be in the Big Ten.”
McCabe credits his experienced teammates in helping him make the adjustment from high school to college.
“All the guys have been really helpful, both on and off the court,” said McCabe. “I get tips from Eric [May] and Matt [Gatens]. They help me out even when we are playing pickup games. The other day at practice, Cully [Payne] was helping me out with defense and our press. They are very helpful and that’s what a good teammate does.”
After a long summer and preseason, McCabe is eager to start the season. He has enjoyed working with McCaffery and the assistants.
“The coaches want us to work hard every practice,” said McCabe. “Coach McCaffery is a player’s coach. He understands you and what happens on the court. You can talk to him about anything. The entire staff is a group of guys you want to know.”