Sports Perspective: TJ McConnell sparks return - The Explorer: Sports

Sports Perspective: TJ McConnell sparks return

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Evan Hofmann

Posted: Wednesday, December 18, 2013 4:00 am

Somewhere along the path of Arizona basketball’s perennial success, the school earned the nickname “Point Guard U” from various journalists. It was a fitting term, being that in each of the school’s four Final Four appearances, a point guard with a stellar skill set has led the team. In 1988 it was future NBA champion Steve Kerr. In 1994 it was current assistant coach Damon Stoudamire. In 1997 it was national champion Mike Bibby. Finally, in 2001 it was fan favorite Jason Gardner. In addition, NBA stars Khalid Reeves, Jason Terry, Gilbert Arenas, and Jerryd Bayless have all pushed the ball up the floor in Wildcat jerseys. 

Yet, once the Lute Olson era came to an end, the “Point Guard U” mindset seemingly faded into memory. Current head coach, Sean Miller, struggled to solidify his teams with a true point guard who had the correct mindset to carry the torch of Arizona basketball history. Players like Nic Wise, Momo Jones, Josiah Turner, and Mark Lyons all had shortcomings that included behavioral problems, school transfers, turnovers, or playing out of position. But with the recent addition of true point guard TJ McConnell, Miller may have just found the most important player to the team’s success.  

It is easy for McConnell to be overlooked. He is not an exciting freshman phenom, does not have a 42-inch vertical leap, and is not 7 feet tall. In addition, many of McConnell’s strengths are in areas that do not show up on a post game stat sheet. This is because McConnell prides himself in being a scrappy defensive point guard with a pass first mentality. 

“I don’t care if I score,” McConnell has said, “I am just trying to get people the ball”. 

Not only is McConnell’s mindset an absolute dream for a head coach looking for a court leader, but it is also a nightmare for opponents for two reasons. Firstly, TJ McConnell rarely turns over the ball. In fact, he has the highest assist to turnover ratio of any U of A point guard in the past decade with 3.3, and is averaging over twice as many assists as any other U of A player in the Miller era with 6.7 per game. Secondly, McConnell is more than capable of shooting the ball efficiently when he needs to. Though he is only scoring 7.4 points per contest, he is shooting an ever efficient 48 percent from the field and over 35 percent from three-point range. 

The bottom line is that the ball is safe when it is in McConnell’s hands, and he knows it. This is why the smallest player on the starting squad is the only man on the floor who touches the ball on every play, calling out instructions to his teammates and making sure they are placing themselves in an ideal scoring position. 

McConnell is the ultra confident conductor of Wildcat basketball, the maestro of the red and blue orchestra, and the little general leading his troops into battle. He is fearless, scrappy, and vocal. In essence, he is everything you need in a Final Four caliber point guard, placing him among the ranks of Arizona’s all time great leaders. “Point Guard U” has finally found a suitable player to live up to its rich history, and he could not have arrived at a more perfect time.

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HS Schedule

Tuesday, September 16

Boys Golf (@ 3 p.m.)

Buena, Cienega at Marana

Mountain View, Ironwood Ridge, Catalina at Amphi (Silverbell GC)

Catalina Foothills, Pueblo, Sahuarita at Sahuaro

Girls Volleyball (Fr 4 p.m., JV 5 p.m., Var 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Mountain View at Rio Rico

Ironwood Ridge at Glendale Ironwood

Swimming (@4 p.m.)

Pusch Ridge, Sahuarita at Desert Christian

Wednesday, September 17

Girls Golf (@ 3 p.m.)

Rincon at CDO

Ironwood Ridge, Desert View at Flowing Wells (Silverbell)

Cross Country (@4:30)

Salpointe at Catalina Foothills

Palo Verde, Nogales at Marana

Rincon, St. Gregory at CDO

Sahuarita, Pueblo, Pusch Ridge at Desert View

Girls Volleyball (Fr 4 p.m., JV 5 p.m., Var 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Empire at Marana (4:30, 5:30, 6:30)

CDO at Queen Creek

Cienega at Mountain View

Sahuaro at Catalina Foothills

Walden Grove at Pusch Ridge

Thursday, September 18

Girls Golf

CDO, Ironwood Ridge at Phoenix Aguila Invitational (all day)

Boys Golf

Sahuaro and Salpointe at Ironwood Ridge

CDO, Rincon, Sunnyside at Tucson High

Girls Volleyball (Fr 4 p.m., JV 5 p.m., Var 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Marana at Sahuarita

Ironwood Ridge at Sahuaro (4:30, 5:30, 6:30)

Catalina Foothills at Rincon

Pusch Ridge at San Manuel

Swimming (4 p.m.)

Marana vs. Tucson at Quincy Douglas Pool

Cienega at Marana

CDO, Ironwood Ridge at Amphi

Catalina Foothills at Sahuaro

Freshman Football (all games at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Flowing Wells at Marana (4 p.m.)

Desert View at Mountain View

Cienega at CDO

Ironwood Ridge at Buena

Catalina Foothills at Sahuarita

JV Football (all games at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Amphi at Marana

Santa Cruz Valley at Pusch Ridge

Mountain View at Desert View

CDO at Cienega

Buena at Ironwood Ridge

Sahuarita at Catalina Foothills

Friday, September 19

Boys Golf

Catalina Foothills, Ironwood Ridge, CDO, at Phoenix Aguila Invitational (all day)

Cross Country

Mountain View, Ironwood Ridge at Mt. Carmel Invitational (San Diego, CA)

Girls Volleyball

CDO at Westwood Tournament of Champions

Football (@7 p.m.)

Pusch Ridge at Santa Cruz Valley

Catalina at Marana

Desert Vista at Mountain View

Ironwood Ridge at Buena

Cienega at CDO

Catalina Foothills at Sahuarita

Saturday, September 20

Boys Golf

Catalina Foothills, Ironwood Ridge, CDO, at Phoenix Aguila Invitational (all day)

Cross Country

Marana at Old Pueblo Invite(Lincoln Park)

Mountain View at San Diego

Catalina Foothills, CDO at Ojo Rojo (Chandler, AZ)

Swimming

Marana at Wolves Classic (Chandler High)

Girls Volleyball

CDO at Westwood Tournament of Champions

 

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