T.J. McConnell: Once a King in Tucson, Becoming a King in Philly

T.J. McConnell adds to a pool of NBA talent that developed their skills while playing Arizona Basketball.

This time T.J. McConnell wasn’t the most likely Arizona players to do so. His name wasn’t called on draft day but received a phone call from the 76ers, a team he grew up watching. Arizona basketball fans would do anything to have T.J back in Tucson because he was that loved. The greatest team player. Going undrafted may have been the best thing for McConnell.

The Philadelphia 76ers have a roster peppered with overall top picks, however, the undersized point guard from Arizona has made the biggest impact of all of them. In fact, he has made such an impression on the rest of the league already, the defending world champion Cleveland Cavaliers have already made a push to snatch him away from Philly. The 76ers shot that down immediately, clearly T.J. McConnell is part of the long-term future of the franchise.

This should be no surprise to Wildcat fans. T.J. quickly got our attention with his east coast toughness, incredible basketball IQ (being the son of a coach himself), and his willingness to sacrifice for his team. He was an extension of Sean Miller on the court, an absolute floor general.

McConnell had been overlooked almost his whole basketball career. He was a last second addition to the combine prior to the draft and was not even drafted. The 76ers took a risk on a 6’2 guard from Pittsburgh. Any player to play Arizona Basketball for Sean Miller is going to play smart and at full speed. Little did they know what they were getting in McConnell, he’s a natural leader and is a very smart player, being the son of a coach contributes to his smarts.

Since they inserted TJ into the starting lineup the 76ers are an above .500 team. In his first start he had 12 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists, and 3 steals. He has energized a team full of talent, he knows his role and he does it well. TJ isn’t known for his scoring. He’s a great distributor, a tenacious defender, but most importantly, he wants the ball with the game on the line. His teammates trust him.

“Is TJ McConnell the clutchest player in the history of the NBA? I guess so.” – Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid, former No. 1 overall pick, said on twitter that he believes TJ McConnell is the most clutch player in the league. Players have always benefited from TJ playing the point guard. If you’re in the right place, he will find you.

TJ has more go ahead field goals in the last 10 seconds than any other player in the league so far this year. Philly basketball fans finally have a team that is exciting on the court and want to compete. TJ has injected life into this team and only time will tell how this team starts playing as they mature together.

The game comes natural to McConnell and he picked up right where at the hands of Wisconsin in the Elite 8. There is a reason his jersey will hang one hay in McKale Center in Tucson Arizona. There is a reason that Arizona Basketball has the name “Point Guard U.”

Arizona has always developed great guards and McConnell is proof that the Sean Miller has picked up right where Lute Olson left off. Producing NBA talent year in and year out, TJ McConnell is just the latest to do so.

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