McConnell excited about future

T.J. McConnell may not be able to play this upcoming season, but he still has an important role and is excited about his future. Read on to see what he says about both, the biggest transition he has made, and more.

One of Arizona's biggest additions over the past offseason may be a player that won't play in the upcoming season.

T.J. McConnell became a Wildcat after transferring from Duquesne University after the completion of his sophomore season.

McConnell wanted to play at a higher-level program and against higher-level competition and although he found both at Arizona, it didn't make the decision any easier.

"It was hard to leave and I committed to Coach Everhart when I was a sophomore," McConnell said. "He's a great guy and a great coach, but I had to leave Pittsburgh and it was tough, but I made the best decision for myself."

The junior played at Arizona when his Duquesne team fell to Arizona 67-59. Playing in that game gave the Wildcats an extra edge in picking up the point guard.

"The fans and the players drew me to Arizona," he said. "The coaches, especially Sean Miller, were a huge part of it. I loved every minute of it out here.

"Seeing the Zona Zoo and the fan support during the game I played here showed me that everyone in Tucson loves Arizona basketball and that's what I want to be a part of."

Even though he has found a new home in Tucson, McConnell says that there are still times when he misses being at home in Pittsburgh. During those times, he turns to his coach, who shares his hometown.

"Whenever I get homesick, Sean makes me feel at home," McConnell said of Coach Miller. "Being from Pittsburgh, we talk about the same stuff and places. We talk about the Steelers, the Penguins, and the Pirates, so he makes me feel at home out here."

After arriving on campus, McConnell acclimated himself quickly and got to know the team. However, the most influential part of his summer was the ten practices that he participated in, before having to sit out of the foreign trip his teammates took.

"I didn't get to go on the trip to the Bahamas, but I was able to practice and that was really beneficial," McConnell said. "Getting to learn the offense before the first real practices start was big for me as a point guard."

So far, the transfer has found the higher-level of play that he was looking for. Playing against upperclassmen guards such as Mark Lyons and Jordin Mayes has helped McConnell push himself harder.

"Playing against the guys every day helps me get better," he said. "Getting reps in and having an extra year to learn the offense is going to make sure I am really prepared for playing next year.

"The level of play is the biggest difference for me right now. We have some big time players out here and a great coach in Coach Miller. I'm just looking forward to playing."

With joining a completely new team comes having completely new leaders. At Arizona, McConnell believes that the seniors will lead the team and also help his transition into the program.

"We have some great leaders," McConnell said. "We're all lucky to play under them and they're going to make us work hard. We just need to follow their lead.

"I only got a glimpse of them during the game and some of them may have had a bad game, but now that I see them in practice, I get to see how they really play. They're all great players."

Another difference that he has seen in the few months he has been in Arizona is the strength program led by Chris Rounds.

"Coach Rounds does a great job with all of us," McConnell said of Arizona's strength and conditioning program. "He is one of the top strength coaches in the country. I can feel myself getting stronger every day. He makes us work hard every day and I respect him for that.

"I've gained ten pounds since I've been here. When I was at Duquesne, when I drove, it wasn't as easy for me to finish around the basket. Now, it's easier for me finish near the rim because I've been noticing that I'm bigger and stronger."

McConnell won't be able to play at Arizona this season, but he will practice with the team and participate in all team activities. In addition, it will give him more time to work on improving his own skills.

"I want to focus on my strengths and weaknesses," he said. "I need to get better every day and continue working hard. The things I need to work on the most are getting stronger and hitting my outside shots. I'll try to improve my defense and ball handling, too."

The transfer is coming into the program with six other new faces, including four freshmen. Even with the big turnover on the Arizona roster, the junior would not single out any freshmen that have stood out.

"Everyone has shown up," McConnell said of the freshmen. "None of the younger guys have stood out. We've all been working hard and playing well.

"We try not to worry about individuals standing out. I know that I'm not worried about it. There's not one best player on the team, because we are all the best players. We're all trying to get better and win games."

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