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Men’s Basketball: Connaughton steps up as captain

Joseph Monardo | Wednesday, November 13, 2013

 

Pat Connaughton is a hot-shooting guard, a key forward, an able ball-handler, and a consistent rebounder. And that only covers half of his athletic responsibilities.

The junior swingman, who also pitches for Notre Dame’s baseball team, is in his first year as an Irish co-captain, and even with his long list of duties and skills, manages to remain humble.

“Oh it’s an honor, especially being voted by the team as well as the coaches,” Connaughton said. “It was something that I’ve kind of always wanted to be, and it was cool to get it. I just hope I can help our team win.”

Connaughton did his share to help the Irish last year, starting all 35 contests for the Irish and contributing 4.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 8.9 points per game. The only sophomore in last season’s starting lineup, the Arlington, Mass., native now finds himself one of the few players with two seasons of considerable playing time under his belt. His newly-assumed veteran status and captaincy combine to create a whole new set of standards, Connaughton said.

“It just means more is expected of you, and that’s something I’ve always thrived on as a player,” he said. “It’s something that I’m kind of comfortable in and have been doing. … It’s something I’ve been working toward and just kind of asking for more out of myself.”

Connaughton forms part of an Irish backcourt filled with talent and experience. Senior guards Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins, the latter of whom serves as a co-captain for the third-straight season, have been instrumental in Connaughton’s development.

“It helps a lot,” he said. “These guys have been playing, I’ve been playing with them for three years now. And it’s something that I’ve kind of just learned from them and just taken from them, ever since I came in being a year younger than them, [with them] having gone through it a year before me. It’s something that I’ve kind of just thrived on and tried to produce just like they do.”

Listed as a guard/forward, Connaughton will necessarily play a major role in Notre Dame’s rebounding efforts. The departure of former Irish forward Jack Cooley, who led the team in rebounding by a significant margin with 10.1 per-game, has left Notre Dame without any one player able to rebound in bulk consistently. Through two games, Connaughton has 13 boards, good enough to tie for the team lead with senior forward Garrick Sherman. 

“It’s something I’ve always done,” Connaughton said of rebounding from the guard position. “It’s something I’ve been used to, just using my jumping ability to get rebounds. It helps me get in the game, attacking the ball. It helps me get involved and helps everything else come easier.”

Now in his third year as a dual-sport athlete at the college level, Connaughton said balancing his commitments to the two sports has gotten more manageable as his experience has grown. 

“The first year was hard just because I didn’t know how to do it,” he said. “Now, last year I had one year under my belt. I was able to see what worked and what didn’t work. This year, I’ve got two years, so it’s easier. I’ve been around it twice now and I can really figure out how to excel at both. And more being asked of me out of both, it’s easier for me to produce both.”

This basketball season, Connaughton will have to pay special attention to be an effective mentor and teacher on the court, something Irish coach Mike Brey has spoken to him about.

“Coach wanted me to be a vocal leader on the team,” Connaughton said. “We’ve talked about it since the end of last year, over the summer, whatever it may be. It’s something I’ve kind of expected out of myself, and more is going to be expected out of me to produce on the court and vocally, as well. So it’s something I’m trying to do in both regards.”

With freshmen guards Demetrius Jackson, Steve Vasturia and freshman forward V.J. Beacham all likely contributors to the Notre Dame squad in its debut season as part of the ACC, Connaughton has plenty of incentive to be a teacher on the court.

“People did the same thing for me when I came in as a freshman,” he said. “I was looking to come in and play, and they helped me do that. And it’s something that I want to help them do it, because they are great players and they are going to be a big asset to the team.”

Contact Joseph Monardo at jmonardo@nd.edu