By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Patrick McCaffery and Joe Toussaint are both freshmen on the Iowa men’s basketball team, but that’s about where their similarities begin and end.
McCaffery stands about 6-feet-9, plays forward and also plays for his father, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, and with his older brother, Iowa sophomore point guard Connor McCaffery.
Patrick McCaffery also attends college in his hometown, and about mile from where he attended high school at Iowa City West.
His mother will get to watch him play every home game, and the house in Coralville in which Patrick grew up is just a few miles from the Iowa campus
Toussaint, on the other hand, barely stands 6-feet, plays point guard and is from New York City, or more specifically, the Bronx.
His family and friends live halfway across the country, so Toussaint doesn’t have the luxury of being around them.
But Toussaint does have Patrick McCaffery and his new Hawkeye family to lean on for support, guidance and friendship.
They will make their much-anticipated Hawkeye debuts on Friday when Iowa plays Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville in the season opener at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
It will be the next step in two journeys whose conclusions are uncertain, but whose paths will be closely intertwined, on and off the court.
Because despite their many obvious differences, Patrick McCaffery and Joe Toussaint have become close friends in a short time. They share a mutual respect and enjoy each other’s company, proving that opposites do sometimes attract.
“It’s definitely crazy how a kid who basically grew up in Iowa City, Iowa could connect so well with a kid who grew up in the Bronx,” Patrick McCaffery said before practice on Wednesday. “He’s a long way from home.”
It’s more inspirational than crazy because one of the neatest things about college athletics is that it brings so many different people from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds together for a common cause.
Patrick McCaffery and Joe Toussaint both came to the University of Iowa to play basketball and to get a college degree.
Patrick grew up to be a Hawkeye, while Toussaint grew into being a Hawkeye.
They were both nervous when Iowa faced Lindsey Wilson College in an exhibition game this past Monday, but Patrick still scored 12 points, while Toussaint had seven rebounds and three assists during Iowa’s 96-58 victory at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“Today was testing the waters,” Toussaint said after Monday’s exhibition game. “I was kind of nervous at the start, but I got the jitters out and I’m fine.”
Patrick McCaffery became acquainted with Toussaint while competing on the AAU circuit. They started having more to talk about after Fran McCaffery made Toussaint a recruiting target.
And now as teammates, they seem to have a chemistry on and off the court.
“Ever since I met him, we just kind of clicked,” Patrick McCaffery said. “He’s probably my best friend here. We’re roommates, like we’re together pretty much all hours of the day.
“Yeah, that’s my guy. I don’t know. It’s kind of hard to explain. It’s just something that’s just kind of there, and something I’m really looking forward to playing with the next four years. He can always find me when I'm open. He always knows where I'm at. So it's just kind of a littel unspoken thing."
As a cancer survivor, Patrick McCaffery cherishes each day and the people who make his life better.
Patrick lost one of his best friends in 2015 when Austin "Flash" Schroeder died after a courageous and inspirational battle against cancer. Patrick was devastated by the loss of his friend and he now uses Schroeder's memory as motivation.
Schroeder also serves as a constant reminder that friends make a life much better, and Toussaint now makes Patrick McCaffery's life better on and off the court, and vice versa.
"Once Iowa started recruiting him I reached out a little bit and then when he came on his visit, we connected really well," Patrick McCaffery said of Toussaint. "And then once he moved in, it was perfect."
Patrick McCaffery has used his hometown connections to help Toussaint adjust to being so far from his home.
"We have my house here that we come back to every once in a while," Patrick McCaffery said. "To kind of give him a sense of the home-type atmosphere and environment. So I think that's something else that is cool for him."
It isn’t where you come from or how you look that makes a friendship true and genuine. A friendship comes from two people sharing a mutual respect and admiration.
It comes from two people trusting each other and wanting what’s best for each other.
And in the case of Patrick McCaffery and Joe Toussaint, it comes just naturally, one friendly conversation at a time.