The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

84° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona basketball: Undrafted Wildcats can follow T.J. McConnell’s path to the NBA

Alex McIntyre
Arizona guard Ryan Anderson (12) hangs on to the rim after a dunk in McKale Center while playing against Oregon State on Saturday, Jan. 30.

For the first time since 2012, an Arizona Wildcat was not taken in the NBA Draft.

It was hardly a surprise, however, as none of the program’s eligible players—Kaleb Tarczewski, Ryan Anderson, Gabe York and Mark Tollefsen—were deemed to be oozing with NBA potential.

Just because a Wildcat wasn’t drafted this summer doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t be seeing one enter the NBA when all is said and done, though.
While getting drafted is ideal for players looking to play in the association, it’s not a requirement.

Look at T.J. McConnell, for example. The ex-Wildcat was in the same boat as Anderson, York and Tarczewski. He starred at Arizona in his two seasons in Tucson and was a standout among college players.

But because of his average physical tools, unspectacular jump shot and age, McConnell was not selected in the NBA Draft.

RELATED: Basketball community mourns the loss of UA alum Sean Rooks

That being said, shortly after the draft concluded, McConnell was scooped up by the Philadelphia 76ers as an undrafted free agent and placed on the team’s Summer League roster, where he was given a chance to fight for an invitation to training camp.

The Summer League is a circuit in which younger players get accustomed the NBA game (if they were drafted) or they try to impress talent evaluators enough to get an extended look with a team (if they were not drafted).

McConnell did the latter. He played well for the Sixers and, after the Summer League concluded, was invited to the team’s training camp. McConnell once again impressed the team while he was there and eventually earned himself a spot on the Opening Night roster.

Ultimately, McConnell found a role in Philadelphia and wound up playing in 81 of the team’s 82 games and averaged 6.1 points and 4.5 assists per game, putting together a strong rookie season.

Because of the success he enjoyed, McConnell—despite being an undrafted player—is now on the inside looking out when it comes to having a roster spot in the NBA.

Not only that, but McConnell’s path to an NBA roster is a perfect model for Arizona’s recent graduates to follow as undrafted free agents themselves.

And so far, they’re following in his footsteps.

Tarczewski, Anderson and York all received invitations to Summer League, which runs from July 2 to July 18 in Orlando, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City.

RELATED: Five-star recruit Terrance Ferguson will play overseas instead of enrolling at the UA

As of now, Tarczewski has joined the Detroit Pistons, Anderson joined the Orlando Magic and York joined the Charlotte Hornets for the Orlando Summer League. It’s possible they’ll play for a second team in the Las Vegas Summer League too.

Tarczewski, for instance, has reportedly agreed to play for the Washington Wizards in Las Vegas after his time in Orlando with the Pistons comes to a close.

Getting onto a Summer League roster is one thing, but outshining the competition and standing out among the dozens of players that are competing for a small number of regular season roster spots is another.

The former Wildcats have done the easy part, but now have a tall task ahead of them. 

With so many other undrafted players in a similar situation, the odds of making an NBA team or even receiving a training camp invite are undoubtedly stacked against the Arizona products.

Tarczewski, Anderson and York will have to show that their perceived flaws won’t inhibit them from being NBA-caliber players. Tarczewski will have to prove he can be a serviceable offensive player, Anderson has to show that he can defend at an NBA-level and hit jumpers from the perimeter and York, given his size, will have to demonstrate that he can play point guard and be an adequate defender.

In the end, it’s likely they can’t and they won’t be on an NBA roster when the season kicks off in late October.

And if that’s the case, there are plenty of opportunities to be had in the NBA Development League or overseas in Europe where they can have successful careers as professional basketball players.

But while the trio of Tarczewski, Anderson and York certainly have an uphill battle to an NBA roster spot, it’s not an impossible feat.

Just ask T.J. McConnell.

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter.

More to Discover
Activate Search