March 14, 2013

Maize and blue for McConnell

Kevin McCarthy

Coming out of a smallish school on the Peninsula, Cole McConnell set his sights big, in both academics and basketball. He developed a plan, executed it and now is headed to the Big 10.

photo of Cole McConnell

Coming out of Sacred Heart Prep in Atherton, McConnell knew he needed to advance physically and polish his skill set. Ranked No. 22 in the NorCal Preps 2012 Boys Basketball Top 40 and named the San Mateo Daily Journal Player of the Year, he decided a prep year would be to his benefit and is currently attending New Hampton School in New Hampshire.

That resulted in being part of a team this season featuring a future Indiana Hoosier and a Georgia Tech commit, one headed by Pete Hutchins, a veteran of the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council winter hardcourt wars and someone with a large rolodex of coaching contacts.

That added exposure resulted in Michigan Coach John Beilein, someone who puts a premium of shooting prowess and intelligent play, extending an invited walk-on spot to McConnell. FYI: this season, the Wolverines are shooting 49% overall, 40% from three-point range.

Why UM, which is currently the No. 4 team in the country?

“Lots of reasons,” McConnell replied. “Coach Beilein is a great coach and person, it's a good program to be in and a top academic school.”

In his coaching tenure, Beilein has taken four different schools to the Big Dance with an offensive style emphasizing constant motion, unselfish passing, back-door cuts and disciplined teamwork. He has won and big everywhere he has coached -- Erie Community College, Nazareth College, LeMoyne College, Canisius, Richmond, West Virginia and now the maize and blue.

As for McConnell's plan, “I went to prep school to get more prepared for college basketball. My academics were fine but I wanted to get stronger and acclimated for college.”

Hutchins earlier had a player (Evan Smotrycz) move on to Michigan so the connections were in place. Video of McConnell was sent to Beilein and then the young man took an unofficial visit and liked what he saw and experienced.

What will McConnell bring to Wolverines basketball?

Try a height of 6-foot-5 with a 6-foot-6 wingspan, remarkable lengths for any backcourter plus sharp shooting and with range.

Academically, McConnell will be working toward acceptance into the Ross School of Business at Ann Arbor. as his major

As an ironic example of how life just works out sometimes, McConnell's father played football at Dartmouth and yet each son went the basketball route.

With Cole headed to Michigan, Reed McConnell at UC Irvine and Will McConnell attending Darmouth, that's a trifecta of talents hooping it at top academic schools.

McConnell wished to thank “my entire family, Coach Hutchins, Tony Martinelli and Pat Walsh back at SHP, Joe Fuca and the Oakland Soldiers” for aiding his quest.