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Patrick McCaffery is back practicing with the Iowa men’s basketball team, another sign that he may be close to returning to game action.

McCaffery hasn’t played since the January 1 loss at Penn State, as he took a leave from the team because of anxiety.

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, Patrick’s father, said Patrick was set to practice with the team on Thursday as the Hawkeyes prepare for Saturday’s game at Ohio State.

“He's doing a lot better,” Fran McCaffery said. “He practiced the other day, looked good. He'll practice today, see if he's ready to go.”

“It's nice to see him back,” forward Kris Murray said. “I think all the whole team's excited just to see him on the court playing with us again.”

“It’s exciting, getting a brother back, getting more depth,” guard Payton Sandfort said. “Obviously, he’s a very versatile scorer.”

Patrick is averaging 12.8 points and 4.8 rebounds this season.

“The first step was obviously to get back for practice and see where he was physically in terms of his conditioning,” Fran McCaffery said. “He was pretty good. So that was good to see.”

“I think when he comes back, it'll be just another scorer we have on the court, another lengthy guy who can spread the floor,” Murray said. “It'll be good to have him back.”

But the players know how important it is just to see Patrick back on the court, from a personal perspective. He has been with the team on the bench during games and traveled on road trips.

“He’s come around a lot,” Murray said. “You can tell in the last few weeks he's been getting a lot better — just a smile on his face, interacting with us players a lot. And just him on the court, he plays with a lot of confidence. There's never a shot that he doesn't like, so it's good to get to see him back.”

“I’m his roommate on road trips,” Sandfort said. “I didn’t really notice a whole lot of difference. He's still the same Patrick that he was last year when I came here, and he's been the same guy through this whole process. So obviously, I would imagine he's starting to win that internal battle, which is very good for him.”

RESCHEDULING THE WILDCATS: Iowa’s game against Northwestern, which was postponed on Wednesday because of COVID-19 and injury issues with the Wildcats, has been rescheduled to January 31 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, with an 8 p.m. start.

The change in schedule, Fran McCaffery said, didn’t bother the team.

“Well, we had practice (on Tuesday), gave them a little bit more time yesterday, but most of the guys were in shooting anyway,” McCaffery said. “Just get ready for the next one. We've done this before.”

Scheduling issues have come up in the last two seasons because of COVID-19, and McCaffery said the Hawkeyes have been able to work through the changes.

“Last year we couldn't go to Ohio State,” he said. “The year before we had Nebraska, they got hit with COVID. No big deal.”

The Hawkeyes (12-6 overall, 4-3 Big Ten) are on a four-game winning streak.

“It's just continuing to do what we do and continue to work hard in practice,” Sandfort said. “We had an off day yesterday but people were in here getting shots up, lifting on their own. So we're still in a good mindset.”

If anything, Sandfort said, a little extra time off wouldn’t hurt.

“I think some of us might be needing it,” Sandfort said. “Filip (Rebraca) and Kris play a million minutes. So, they probably appreciated the day off.

“Obviously,we were in a rhythm, but I think we'll be fine. Just have a good practice today and we'll just get right back to it.”