Q & A: Zach McCabe

Nov. 5, 2013

Zach McCabe is a 6-foot-7, 235-pound senior forward on the University of Iowa men’s basketball team. A native of Sioux City, Iowa (Bishop Heelan High School), McCabe has played 104 games for the Hawkeyes (39 starts), averaging 6.4 points and 4.0 rebounds a game.

Do you have a vision of how you want your senior season to play out?
We want to go to the NCAA Tournament. I want to win every game that we play and make sure our team is progressing toward the end of the season, so hopefully we can make a run in March.

How would you explain what coach Fran McCaffery has meant to you the last three years?
He has meant the world to me. He is a mentor, a great coach, and he is also your friend. He wants you to do the best you can in anything you do and sometimes he gets in your face, but other times he is just trying to encourage you and make you a better person and player, and that helps you in life.

How did you handle the coaching change at the University of Iowa during your senior season of high school?
I opened up (my college search) a little bit but I wanted to go to Iowa and coach McCaffery made it an easy progression. He came to my house and talked to me about what his plan was. I knew we weren’t going to win right away but there is no easier situation for a freshman than for him helping you and making you comfortable and giving you confidence your first year.

What aspect of your game do you take the most pride in?
Hustle. You don’t see many people dive on the floor for balls. Plays like that can help you win a game so I take pride in hustling, diving on the floor, and getting key rebounds to help win a game.

Was it a difficult decision to choose basketball over football as your college sport of choice?
No, I only had one football offer and I wanted to play basketball in college so it was an easy choice for me.

“I like comedy movies more than anything. When I was growing up I always watched Will Ferrell movies — Old School and Step Brothers. I liked Will Ferrell and the funny thing is, coach (Andrew) Francis thinks I look like him when I have long hair.”
Zach McCabe
UI senior forward

You list as favorite celebrities Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Will Ferrell. James and Durant seem to make sense, but Ferrell?
I like comedy movies more than anything. When I was growing up I always watched Will Ferrell movies — Old School and Step Brothers. I liked Will Ferrell and the funny thing is, coach (Andrew) Francis thinks I look like him when I have long hair.

You are from a long list of Sioux City Heelan graduates who attended the University of Iowa. What contributes to that pipeline?
I don’t know. A lot of us growing up at Heelan wanted to win state championships and be successful and we wanted to carry that on and go to Iowa. Our high school coaches wanted to make us better and successful and that has helped us at Iowa.

Excitement is in the air with the UI men’s basketball program. How does that affect your focus?
It doesn’t change our focus, our expectation has always been the NCAA Tournament. We know what we need to do, we’re focused on one game at a time and one practice at a time. We want to get better every game, so that’s our focus. We don’t look ahead or look behind, it’s what we need to do right now.

What is the craziest encounter you have had with a Hawkeye fan?
I was walking down Melrose during a football game to meet my parents. A couple guys jumped on my back and yelled, “Yeah McCabe, go Hawks, go Hawks!” I was like, geez, come on, I almost fell on the ground. It was kind of funny and I didn’t know them. That’s how it has been the last year.

Have you thought how you will feel when next October rolls around and you are not wearing the Iowa uniform?
I don’t think about it much because it’s a little saddening. I hope a year from now people are talking about what we did (in 2013-14), how successful we were, making the NCAA Tournament and doing everything possible to win.

You have lived through three years of highlights on the court. Which ones stick out to you?
The Chris Street game we had last year (a 77-60 win against Wisconsin on Jan. 19, 2013). When we walked in there was so much energy going on and it fed into us as players. Seeing his mother and father before the game lit a fire in us. I didn’t think Wisconsin had a chance to win the game that night because everyone had so much energy. We wanted to win for Chris and we did that.

Another one would be all the times people rushed the court — upset wins. Freshman year Purdue (67-65 on March 5, 2011), so many close games we had. That’s something you wish for when you play college basketball and to experience that is bar-none.