An Added Word: My T.J. McConnell rant two years in the making

Addison Smith | Sports Editor

I’ve always been a T.J. McConnell apologist. When he decided to shop around and leave Duquesne basketball, I was angry as a Duquesne basketball fan, but as a T.J. McConnell fan, I knew it was the right decision.

Duquesne basketball fans everywhere were bitter. I’ll admit, McConnell was the glue that held the team together in most games. It’s not every day that you see someone like him, someone who can run the court, score when needed and primarily be there to help the team.

In McConnell’s 2041 minutes played over two seasons for Duquesne, he scored 698 points, stole the ball 177 times and had 311 assists. To put that in perspective, that is the equivalent of 51.025 games played (calculated as if McConnell had played a full game, every game) with an average of 13.7 points per game, 3.47 steals per game and 6.1 assists per game.

Needless to say, he was an asset to the Duquesne men’s basketball program. Local talent realized they could play basketball for Duquesne and not Pitt. His decision in his sophomore year of high school to play for Ron Everhart’s Dukes was rash, but something special for the Duquesne athletic department.

For those of you not familiar with McConnell or how he came to play basketball at Duquesne, here’s a little refresher. His family is Pittsburgh basketball royalty (his aunt, Suzie McConnell-Serio, is a former WNBA player and former Duquesne women’s basketball coach who now coaches Pitt, and his dad Tim coaches Chartiers Valley’s HS basketball program). He committed to Duquesne when Ron Everhart was coaching. He was named Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year in 2011 and was named to the A10’s All-Defensive Team in 2012.

Now, he’s the one who got away. Well, I guess there wasn’t much Duquesne could do about it, he’s not like a boyfriend that your mom is convinced is the one and you let him slip through your fingers. How about we call him “the one that was too good for Duquesne basketball, realized it and left town” or TOTWTG4DBBRI&LT for short? Too much? Okay, let’s just stick to calling him T.J. McConnell, because that’s who he is. He’s not a person who betrayed Duquesne basketball, he’s a person who realized there was more than what Duquesne was offering him.

So, McConnell decided to shop around for a new basketball team, one more prolific than Duquesne and one where he could grow as a basketball player. His final two schools? The University of Virginia and the University of Arizona. Now, as a T.J. McConnell apologist and as a person born and raised in Virginia rooting for the UVA Cavaliers, I was pretty partial to him picking the orange and blue and staying on the east coast.

Then, his decision came and the Duquesne basketball fan in me was joined by another griever, the UVA basketball fan in me as McConnell chose to transfer to Arizona. However, that was quickly upended by the T.J. McConnell apologist side of me as I started telling people “it’s a good choice for him” and “honestly, he’s a better player than Duquesne basketball was allowing him to be” and every other cliché in the book.

Last year, while McConnell didn’t dress for Arizona due to transfer rules, the McConnell apologist side in me didn’t have to come out. While he was on the bench, Duquesne fans were too busy focusing on the season that wasn’t for the Dukes than paying any attention to him. Now, he’s playing for the Wildcats and the T.J. McConnell apologist side of me is making waves.

As a Wildcat, McConnell has played 684 minutes, scored 164 points, has registered 41 steals and has 123 assists. He has played in 21 games so that equates to 7.8 points per game, 1.95 steals per game and 5.86 assists per game. He’s playing consistent minutes for one of the top squads in the country. He stands a chance at winning a national championship.

Honestly, can you really be mad at T.J. McConnell?