T.J. McConnell chooses Arizona over Virginia
Pennsylvania native and Duquesne transfer sides with Sean Miller
Sean Miller has finally landed his consummate point guard.
Duquesne transfer and floor general T.J. McConnell announced Tuesday morning that he has committed to Miller and the Wildcats, choosing Arizona over Virginia and head coach Tony Bennett.
“When I stepped on campus I immediately fell in love with it,” McConnell told the Daily Wildcat. “They’re all great guys and after talking to Sean Miller and his staff I knew I want to play with great fans and great players and one of the best coaches in the country.”
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Pittsburgh native has been mulling the decision since asking for a release from Duquesne on March 21.
But after visiting Arizona last weekend and sitting down with Miller, McConnell knew Tucson was where he wanted to be.
His No. 1 motive? Winning.
“Obviously I’ve never played in the NCAA Tournament,” McConnell said. “Arizona made that Elite Eight run and I think we can do that here at Arizona. I’m going to bring the will to win, a tough mindset, and unselfishness — just an all-around hard worker. I’m going 100 percent.”
McConnell raved about the chance to play in front of ‘’some of the best fans in the country” in hopes of making a deep NCAA Tournament run. He also spoke of Arizona’s No. 1 2012 recruiting class and how that swayed his decision.
“I did hear about the recruiting class, all the big guys coming in and Gabe York,” said McConnell. “I actually did talk to Grant Jerrett a couple days before my visit. He said he’s looking forward to playing with me and hoped that I would commit. I just came here to win and I think we can do that here.”
McConnell was seriously considering Bennett and Virginia, as he “really connected” with the Cavaliers’ coach and “loved the people out there and the facilities.”
But the chance to win combined with Miller’s coaching prowess proved too valuable for McConnell. He said he knew deep down a “night or two ago” that Arizona was where he wanted to be, he simply needed to sleep on it before making a decision.
When the dust settled, McConnell chose Arizona, and Miller got the player he called “one of the best point guards in the country” before the UA hosted Duquesne last November.
“He’s the consummate point guard,” Miller said. “He makes his team better. Just my familiarity with Duquesne and the success they have in the Atlantic 10, he’s a really good player that will test our point guards.”
McConnell is now one of Miller’s point guards. He’ll have to sit out the 2012-13 season due to transfer rules but when he’s eligible to hit the floor, McConnell will join a slew of talent. McConnell said he’s aware of point guard Josiah Turner, but that didn’t factor into his decision.
“I’m just here to get people the ball, play defense and win,” McConnell said. “I’m all in.”
Distributing the ball and playing defense are exactly what McConnell did at Duquesne. McConnell, who only received one scholarship offer out of Chartiers Valley (Penn.) High School, finished third in the country in steals last season with 2.77 per contest.
He also averaged 5.5 assists per game, good for 28th in the country. While also averaging 11.4 points and 4.4 rebounds as a sophomore McConnell was named to the All-Atlantic 10 Conference’s third team.
After averaging 10.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.8 steals during his freshman season McConnell was named the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year. McConnell also finished in the conference’s top five in steals, assist-to-turnover ratio, assists, field goal percentage and 3-point percentage that season.
It remains to be seen how McConnell will fit in with the point guard group of Turner and Jordin Mayes, but Miller has raved about McConnell in the past, and former Duquesne head coach Ron Everhart even compared UA’s new point guard to his new head coach.
“I’ll be honest with you, T.J. reminded me a lot of Sean when I first saw him,” said Everhart, who’s known Miller since they were young kids. “T.J. comes from the same sort of family environment that Sean does, and I’ll tell you that was very attractive to me as a coach because I had seen how successful Sean and Archie have been. If you go back and you watch old University of Pittsburgh clips, there are a whole lot of similarities.”
McConnell will arrive in Tucson on June 4 for summer classes and workouts with the team. Although he won’t be able to play next season, he’s anxious to begin his new college career at Arizona.
“It’s tough sitting out and just watching but the coaches reassured me that this year that I sit out will be good for me,” he said. “I’m actually looking forward to the year.”