Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats top hoops badasses: No. 7 — T.J. McConnell




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By popular demand, after our publication of Arizona’s Top 10 Football Badasses, brings you the Wildcats’ Top 10 Basketball Badasses. The countdown will be featured in separate blogs.

Previously in the countdown:

No. 10: Jim “Guts” Rappis.

No. 9: Pete Williams

No. 8: John Edgar

T.J. McConnell

T.J. McConnell

T.J. McConnell is a coach’s son playing for a coach’s son and both are from the Steel City, Pittsburgh.

For that to happen, and for McConnell to be playing at the level of a Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate, he must have a toughness about him befitting of a badass.

“T.J. has the personality of a winner,” Arizona coach Sean Miller is quoted as saying by NBC Sports. “He has a resiliency, a toughness that isn’t fake. If you watch us practice he’s our hardest worker and he brings it every day. It’s one of the reasons why I think Parker (Jackson-Cartwright) is getting better, because he plays against a tireless worker every day.

“He sets the tone for a lot of good things that happen for our team.”


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Site founder and award-winning sports journalist Javier Morales has published his first e-book, “The Highest Form of Living”, a fiction piece about a young man who overcomes a troubled upbringing without his lost father and wayward mother through basketball and hope. His hope is realized through the sport he loves. Basketball enables him to get past his fears. His experience on the court indirectly brings him closer to his parents in a unique, heartfelt way. Please order it at Amazon (for only $4.99) by clicking on the photo:



T.J. McConnell reacts to his steal and assist to Stanley Johnson in the second half against Oregon earlier this season (Pac-12 Networks screen shot)

T.J. McConnell reacts to his steal and assist to Stanley Johnson in the second half against Oregon earlier this season (Pac-12 Networks screen shot)

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All a teammate has to do is look at McConnell to gain a certain energy. He screams and gets in their faces. He dives after loose balls with reckless abandon. His face gets beet red from the heat of the competition whether Arizona is up by two points or by 20. How can anybody play without passion after watching him?

After McConnell recorded eight steals against Oregon State earlier this month at McKale, Beavers coach Wayne Tinkle was amazed how much McConnell’s effort rubbed off on the Wildcats.

“Arizona is tough,” Tinkle said. “McConnell is my player of the year. He is everything to his team.”

My colleague Anthony Gimino made a point earlier this season that McConnell compares favorably with Scooby Wright, who has excelled at an elite level in college despite having a two-star recruiting status out of high school. “TwoStarScoob” as his Twitter handle reads, made this site’s top 10 Arizona football badasses with his unrelenting style.


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McConnell was also a two-star recruit out of Chartiers Valley High School in Bridgeville, Pa. Nobody from the power conferences recruited him, including nearby Pitt (then of the Big East). He decided to stay close to home and play for Duquesne.

“T.J. came here with very little fanfare, but I can make the argument that no player that we’ve brought here during my time has been more instrumental toward winning than him,” said Miller, who has signed 10 five-star recruits in his six years at Arizona.

An Associated Press story earlier this season labeled McConnell the “Mayor of McKale”.

Here’s an excerpt from that article that describes McConnell appropriately:

Typically holding court near center court, he greets players like a first baseman chatting with opposing baserunners, bantering about how well they’re playing, how much he respects them, maybe saying something to make them laugh. Occasionally, he’ll wander in front of the opposing team’s bench, praise the coach or chat with a player. Once the game goes live again, Arizona point guard T.J. McConnell transforms. He spits fire, not compliments. Hounds opponents relentlessly. Howls at the crowd with a red-faced fury. Puts every ounce of his being toward winning.

“He’s the heart and soul and when his face gets red and he’s pumping his veins, that’s every day for him,” said Arizona freshman Stanley Johnson, who has felt the brunt of McConnell’s no-nonsense style many times.

McConnell told Johnson to “shut up” loud enough for the ESPN cameras to pick up when Johnson was jawing with a Kansas State player during the Maui Invitational.

A badass has his way of making himself be heard and understood. McConnell has that characteristic about him.

Coach McConnell has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He has also written articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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