I remember being 15 years old sitting with my dad at the TD Garden on a cold March evening in 2011. We made the trip into the city for MIAA high school basketball playoffs featuring St. Johns Prep, my alma mater, against Lawrence High School. This was the first time I ever saw the eventual Gatorade Player of the Year, star player at Notre Dame and eventual NBA draft pick, Pat Connaughton, play. At the high school level he was simply dominant. At 6’4 in high school, he was more or less a power forward, but his position didn’t matter because he did everything. He ran the offence, scored, rebounded and played college caliber defense as a high school player.
The Prep ended up winning that game against Lawrence and won the MIAA Division 1 state championship. Over the next four years, I closely followed his career at Notre Dame. By the end of his first season, he was starting and averaged 7 ppg. Notre Dame made it to the NCAA tournament, but was ousted very early. In his sophomore season, he became the clear starter and it was clear he showed signs of improvement with averages of 8.9 ppg. By the time he was a junior, it became clear that he had NBA potential. He was averaging well over double digits and dominating at the college level. At the end of his junior year the Baltimore Orioles drafted him and it looked as if he would be choosing baseball over basketball. Once his senior season came around, that all changed.
Pat led Notre Dame deep into the NCAA tournament and lost to Kentucky, in a close heartbreaking loss. At that point it was clear he would get drafted to the NBA. On draft night, he was selected by the Brooklyn Nets in the second round and eventually was dealt to the Portland Trailblazers. His contract at first wasn’t guaranteed, but with his strong Summer League play, he made his contract guaranteed and will be making $625,000 next season. I could not be more proud that a Prep alumnus has achieved this level of greatness and I look forward to seeing what he can do in Portland next season.
By Spencer Roush @Spence_BBS