Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats in NBA Summer League: McConnell drawing praise


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T.J. McConnell has not quite made it to the NBA yet, but you can imagine Sean Miller with a smile as his former point guard captain develops this summer.

It was Miller who proclaimed during McConnell’s junior season that he is an NBA-worthy talent. Many who viewed McConnell as too small without tremendous offensive skills shook their heads at Miller’s assessment.

Former Arizona assistant coach Kevin O’Neill, now a Pac-12 basketball analyst, scoffed while on the air last season at the idea of McConnell being a conference player of the year candidate or a future NBA talent.

“I’m not sure T.J. McConnell is anything but an average defender at the point,” said O’Neill, who has head coaching and assistant coaching experience in the NBA.

So far, if the NBA Summer League is a good barometer, it seems Miller is winning the argument.

All reviews of McConnell as point guard at the NBA Summer League in Salt Lake City indicate he is turning heads. The worst that could happen is that McConnell, undrafted last month, does not play or is relegated to the bench.

But he has played significant minutes for the Philadelphia 76ers and media that cover the team believe he has a legitimate shot to be in the team’s point guard rotation come October for training camp.

The 76ers’ brass is impressed.

“The first thing that you see from him is that he understands his role,” said Sixers assistant Billy Lange, who is coaching the Utah squad, to Philly.com. “He understands what he should do as a point guard. He’s setting the floor and the table for people. He communicates.

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“In the summer league that’s important, because they are just getting to know each other. They want to develop some chemistry. And I think T.J. has a feel for knowing how to do that.”

McConnell begins play with the 76ers in the Las Vegas NBA Summer League tomorrow. In two games in Salt Lake City before today, McConnell is showing hustle averaging 6 rebounds and 3 assists. He is shooting only 5-of-16 from the field and 0-for-4 from three-point range but he is setting up Philadelphia’s offense and creating opportunities for Jahlil Okafor and other teammates.

The following is a slideshow of the favorable Tweets mentioning McConnell. It’s difficult to find any negative ones if at all (Click on “Next” to get started) …

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