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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

McConnell and Sean Miller a perfect fit

Despite landing the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, UA head coach Sean Miller knew there was something missing.

Arizona’s 2012 class has size in 7-foot center Kaleb Tarczewski and 6-foot-10 power forward Grant Jerrett. It has versatility in 6-foot-8 forward Brandon Ashley, and it has an explosive scorer in 6-foot-2 shooting guard Gabe York.

But Miller’s highly touted 2012 class was missing a floor general to rally the troops, distribute the ball and defend the point of attack.

T.J. McConnell filled that void on Tuesday.

McConnell, who committed to Arizona on Tuesday after seeking a transfer from Duquesne, was Miller’s missing link.

“He just said there’s a missing piece to us making a run at the Elite Eight and the Final Four,” McConnell explained. “He said he’s a coach’s son and he would love to have a chance to coach someone like me and I jumped on it.”

Sure, Arizona won’t have McConnell until the 2013-14 season. Yes, Josiah Turner could very well be there manning the point guard position.

But as Turner proved last season, there’s no such thing as a sure thing with him. He still remains suspended indefinitely, and even when he was on his game last season, he didn’t play at the level of an elite player you can’t afford to have out of the lineup.

Even if Turner is there, McConnell will have a chance to play — and possibly start — because of what he brings to the table.

He’s the perfect point guard for Miller’s system. So perfect, in fact, that McConnell’s former Duquesne coach and Miller’s longtime friend Ron Everhart compared the two as players.

“I’ll be honest with you, T.J. reminded me a lot of Sean when I first saw him,” Everhart said. “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.”

Miller’s a defense-first coach, and McConnell finished third in the NCAA in steals both his freshman and sophomore seasons.

With his motion-heavy offense, Miller preaches protecting the ball and limiting turnovers. Two seasons ago, McConnell posted the sixth-best assist-to-turnover ratio for a freshman in NCAA history at 2.50.

McConnell provides everything that Turner couldn’t accomplish last season. He can defend the point of attack and get Arizona into its offense, and he distributed 5.5 assists per game last season.

There’s no better player to mix with big-time recruits like Ashley, Jerrett, Tarczewski and York than a consummate floor general looking to distribute the ball.

As a result of landing just one scholarship offer, McConnell is driven to make it at the big-time Division I level. That drive shines through in conversation:

“I’m going to bring the will to win.”

“I’m all in.”

“I’m going 100 percent.”

Alongside a group of players who have been pegged with star rankings their entire lives, Arizona needed a player like McConnell.

Miller needed a player like McConnell.

And McConnell, in pursuit of a spot among the nation’s elite, needed Arizona. Even Turner needs a player like McConnell to push him.

Tuesday morning was a win-win situation for everyone involved, and although it will take until the 2013-14 season, that will eventually come to light.

­_— Mike Schmitz is a marketing senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatHoops ._

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