Queen Creek Perry High School Class of 2021 recruit Madison Conner is such a highly sought talent that one of the best coaches in the nation, Maryland’s Brenda Frese — who played at Arizona from 1989-92 — returned to Tucson during the recruiting process for lunch with Conner’s club-team coach Jeremy Daniels to make a pitch for her.
Daniels, an assistant at Sabino High School, coaches Conner with AZSupreme along with Sabercats head coach Jaamal Rhodes.
“Maddie was getting a lot of schools coming in to Arizona, but the fact that Jaamal and I had relationships with them, a lot of them would drop down to Tucson (from Phoenix) and have lunch with us,” Daniels said. “When you have Brenda Frese from Maryland, a top 10 program that has been like that over the last few years, here in Tucson that lets you know what caliber of player that you have.”
North Carolina State also wanted Conner. UCLA recruited her heavily. Louisville sought her. Indiana was in on her. Many others, including Washington and Cal, thought they had a chance. The list goes on and on.
Those are mostly top 25 programs.
“I think Madison Conner is a pro.”— Jeremy Daniels AZSupreme coach and Sabino assistant
Arizona coach Adia Barnes had the upper hand developing an eye for Conner’s talent before the others came to this state to try to sway her away. The early recruitment of Conner, a 6-foot guard-wing with perimeter-shooting skills, and the direction of Barnes’ program, were the deciding factors for her to commit to Arizona today.
“The overall view of it — they’re on the upclimb — and (Barnes) is doing something great there. I definitely want to be a part of it,” Conner told AllSportsTucson.com. “I’ve had a connection with her because she gave me my first offer when I was in the eighth grade.
“That connection with her is something I didn’t have with the other schools, but I just feel like that’s home. “
Conner, who averaged 20.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game, is Barnes’ first commitment of the Class of 2021.
When asked about the affable Barnes, who coached Arizona’s once-moribund program to a No. 12 ranking this season in her fourth year at her alma mater, Conner said, “She’s just a great person. She tells it how it is. She’s very straightforward and translucent. She’s been that way with me throughout the entire process.”
Daniels has coached Conner for three years with AZSupreme, a club that has also featured the likes of Sahuaro’s Alyssa Brown, Sabino’s Kiya Dorroh, Kamryn Doty and Kam’Ren Rhodes, Valley Vista forward Marisa Davis and Mesquite guard Alaya Fitzgerald — all of whom have received Division I scholarship offers.
AZSupreme competes against some of the country’s top club teams in the nation during the summer.
Daniels knows a talent when he sees one, and what he says of Conner carries significance.
“I think Madison Conner is a pro,” Daniels told me.
“Besides being able to shoot the ball, and being a real good leader, her work ethic, and then again, her size — she’s 6-foot, 6-foot-1,” Daniels said when asked about Conner’s skills. “She can really shoot it, and she’s not the go-stand-in-the-corner type of shooter.
“She can put it on the floor. She can come off the down-screen. She can handle the ball well enough to get her own shoot or create her own shot and create shots for others.”
110% committed 🐻⬇️ pic.twitter.com/p8cGENJJFg
Conner’s commitment comes at an opportune time. Rather than be concerned about a potential summer without club basketball because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Conner made her commitment now to put her mind at ease towards developing for Barnes’ program.
If the shelter-in-place restrictions are lifted by this summer, and AZSupreme is able to play, she plans on joining the team.
She said choosing Arizona was “very difficult” because of the large number of high-caliber programs and coaches involved in the recruiting process.
“I had other great schools to consider and great relationships with other coaches as well,” Conner said. “But at the end of the day, I can only choose one school.”
Daniels, who helped Jaamal Rhodes coach Sabino to a 3A state championship in late February, was on the bench when the Sabercats faced Perry High and Conner in the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix back in November,
Conner almost outscored Sabino’s entire team in a 65-37 victory. She finished with 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting from the field, including 5 of 7 from 3-point range. The Sabercats played that game without Kam’Ren Rhodes, a sophomore who was lost for the season that week because of an ACL tear.
“If we had Kam’Ren, the score would have been closer, but Maddie still would have got her points,” Daniels said. “She had 11 points at halftime, and in the second half, again, she is one of those players that if one or two shots fall, you look up and then there’s another one and another one.
“She was looking over at us because we have a relationship with our kids (at AZSupreme), and we’re talking. She’s looking at us and the competitive fire was coming out. She was looking at us like, ‘Look, this kid can’t guard me. Coach, you know better than this.'”
Conner, who also had 10 rebounds, showed her ability throughout the season for Perry. The Pumas finished 21-8 and advanced to the 6A state semifinals, where they lost to eventual state champion Valley Vista 48-47.
She shot 46 percent from the field this season, including 40 percent from 3-point range. She made 86 of 215 shots from beyond the arc . Her shots from that range were 47.5 percent of her attempts.
She produced at least 30 points in three games, and she had six games with at least five made 3-pointers. She has a chance to reach 2,000 points in her career, presently at 1,436 through three varsity seasons.
“Definitely, I can shoot the ball, but I can obviously shoot it better,” Conner said. “I’m working on my pull up mid-range, just getting past the first line of defense, reading what the next line is doing just because especially in college, there’s girls that are 6-5 in the paint. You can’t ignore people anymore and take a layup.
“I’m definitely trying to grow my leadership skills and all the other aspects. Obviously, improving my defense because I’m actually going to play against pros every single night, so that’s a huge part. “
Conner attended a few Arizona games this season and was among the thousands of spectators at McKale Center that gave the program a record attendance of 5,944 fans a game.
She has followed Arizona closely since three years ago when she was offered the scholarship by Barnes, so she has been along for the ride with all the Arizona faithful in the Wildcats’ quest for prominence.
“I think it’s awesome,” Conner said of the fan involvement. “The team is involved in the community a lot. So that brings a lot of attention and fans because they’re out in the community doing things actively.
“(McKale Center) was awesome. The atmosphere is crazy. They didn’t start that way, so just seeing how they have progressed over the years …. just seeing how the culture, atmosphere and everything has changed around the program, it’s super exciting.”
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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.