Is this any surprise?
It is in T.J. McConnell’s character to take it upon himself to travel with the Philadelphia 76ers’ young players in the NBA Summer League rather than stay home and work out.
McConnell — Sean Miller’s coach on the floor as Arizona’s point guard in 2013-14 and 2014-15 — is serving as an unofficial mentor for the 76ers’ draft picks, undrafted signees and free-agent acquisitions during the summer league in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas this month.
“I kind of know how it felt like for me and other guys being your first summer league,” McConnell told Keith Pompey of the Philly.com. “I just want to be here if they have any questions for me. I’m just trying to be here for support for them and any questions they have.”
This is another indication that McConnell is a coach in the making with his leadership ability and winning style.
Pompey details that yesterday McConnell was “zipping chest passes” while helping the staff put players through a shooting drill.
McConnell has taken the time to also work out individually with the coaching staff after the shootarounds and practices.
After making the 76ers’ roster as an undrafted free agent in 2015-16, McConnell was one of the surprise success stories in the NBA last year, starting 51 of the 81 games in which he played. He ranked 10th in the league in steals (1.65 per game) and tied for 12th in assists (6.6).
McConnell, 25, also scored 6.9 points a game and pulled down a respectable 3.1 rebounds a game.
He is not slated to start in 2017-18 with first overall draft pick Markelle Fultz occupying his position at point guard. Former Arizona player Jerryd Bayless will challenge McConnell for playing time as the backup point guard as well.
Keeping the 76ers cohesive as a bench player next season appears to be his role, although McConnell showed last season that he is capable as a versatile point guard in the league.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.