BY: ED COLE
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Mickey McConnell’s roots in Arizona run deep. He was born and raised and Mesa, Ariz., his father, Rick, coached him at Dobson High School, and for the longest, his grandfather, Dick, was the winningest high school basketball coach in the state at Tucson’s Sahuaro High School.
McConnell had dreams of donning a Phoenix Suns’ uniform ever since he was a kid. He’s getting to live out those dreams now, as he’s a part of Phoenix’s NBA Summer League roster.
“I got to follow the Suns during their great stretches when they had great players,” McConnell said. “It’s always been a dream because it’s my hometown team. It’s been great being here so far.”
McConnell’s making sure he doesn’t get too caught up in being with the hometown team. He’s keeping himself grounded, and his mind and body focused on the task at hand: making the Suns’ roster.
“Just work hard (and) play hard. Defensively, get up and pressure the ball and take care of the ball on offense,” McConnell said. “We have a lot of talented players (and) a lot of talented wings. My job’s to come in and get them shots in the right spot, so that’s what I’m trying to do.”
McConnell’s had a chance to see the world in his basketball travels. He’s played in previous summer leagues with the Charlotte Hornets and Los Angeles Clippers, he was in training camp with the Dallas Mavericks a few seasons ago, he’s been in the NBA D-League and he’s had a chance to go overseas and play in Germany and Italy.
During the 2013-14 season, McConnell averaged 10.2 points, 6.4 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 50 games with the Texas Legends of the D-League. He turned a lot of heads in those 50 games, which he feels put him in a good position to show the Suns – and any other teams who are watching him – that he can do the same for them if they just give him a shot.
“It was good for me,” McConnell said. “Coming from St. Mary’s, you don’t get a chance to play against the top teams in the country all the time, so it was good to see where I stood against the athletes in the league and just the pace of the game. I thought it was a good chance for me to see where I stood personally.”
All that travel and experience has helped McConnell grow up pretty fast and appreciate life that much more.
“You go from college where you’re taken care of pretty well, to living on your own, and cooking meals for yourself and no one speaks the language,” McConnell said. “It’s been a great experience, and I think I’ve grown up a lot since leaving St. Mary’s and I think I’ve learned a lot.”
McConnell’s seen the best that the Suns had to offer growing up. To him, the team’s coming full circle under head coach Jeff Hornacek with the desire to push the tempo and push the issue on offense. It’s a philosophy McConnell can get behind.
“The big key is just sharing the ball and playing as a team,” McConnell said. “I grew up during Kevin Johnson, and Jason Kidd, and (Steve) Nash and those teams (when) the ball moved and flew up the court, so it’s been a fun couple days so far.”
McConnell’s doing all he can to stand out on the 12-man summer league roster. It seems like his résumé is doing most of the talking for him.
“He’s (McConnell) got great experience at the point guard position,” Suns’ summer league coach Nate Bjorkgren said. “He’s got really good overseas experience. He’s going to make everyone around him better. You’re gonna see him kicking it ahead to T.J. (Warren), and Archie (Goodwin), and Devin (Booker) when they’re running those wings, and those guys are going to feel his presence, because they’re going to get touches when he’s on the floor.”
It’s not hard for Bjorkgren to see the basketball influence that McConnell’s father and grandfather has had on him. That influence should carry McConnell even further in his trek back to the NBA.
“Definitely. Extremely coachable, picks things up very quickly, plays hard, everything that you love about a player,” Bjorkgren said.