June 6, 2012

McConnell's move to basketball pays off

Kevin McCarthy

If Brett McConnell had a business card say two years ago, it might have read aspiring respiratory therapist. Even one year back, any sports-related identification would probably have been volleyball related. But every day, life brings both change as imposed and also as opportunity sought and now the Foothill College basketball talent newbie is headed past the Redwood Curtain on a college basketball scholarship.

photo of Brett McConnell

To paraphrase the late John Lennon, life is what happens when we're busy making plans. McConnell was focused on classes at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills with the idea of entering the respiratory therapy training program offered there. It was four years after high school when he ran into a Foothill frontcourter in the school quad. That player noted McConnell's height (6-foot-6) and told him he should come out for basketball.

Well, a year or so later and that chance meeting has resulted in a basketball scholarship at Humboldt State University for the 23-year-old McConnell.

That's the story outline.

But the intriguing part begins with the fact that he never played organized high school basketball, having been cut as a 5-foot-9 freshman at Mountain View High. After that decision, McConnell focused on volleyball. "I went out for volleyball because my friend was playing and I liked the joy of being on a team." Besides one season of football, it was strictly volleyball for McConnell as a prepster.

He continued, "I liked basketball a lot but I thought my basketball playing days had passed me by other than playing for fun. I tried to come out once before [at Foothill] but didn't know how to get ready."

The second time proved to be the charm but also just the beginning.

The formidable task of becoming a college basketball player was now the obstacle before him.

McConnell is blunt about his then knowledge of the game and his skill development: "I had no clue what was going on. You have to know what you're doing and what your teammates are doing around the court and I didn't. But once you do, the game slows down."

Still, he feels he is not at journey's end: "I still feel like I know nothing about basketball. There's still a lot to learn."

McConnell credits two individuals in particular for his advancement. "Coach Rose [Shanan Rosenberg] taught me the game as I know it and [Foothill Assistant] Coach [Jimmy] Herrera worked with me a lot."

In a relatively short period of time, McConnell basically came off the street to score 12.2 points per game on 54% shooting (sinking 71% of 132 free throw attempts) plus grabbing 7.4 rebounds a contest and blocking 32 shots.

The result?

Placement on the all conference squad plus being selected as an honorable mention on the all-state team.

Remarkably in this case, being a basketball tabula rasa was a benefit.

As Rosenberg explained about his prot?: "Brett was open to lessons about the game, really pure and driven and the fact that he was not exalted made him an exceptional learner. It's amazing how expeditious the learning process happens when someone isn't jaded. Kids get so cluttered by information from multiple sources, it scrambles the CPU and that wasn't the case with Brett."

So why the Lumberjacks?

"Humboldt State is a top D-II basketball program," he succinctly explained. Coach Steve Kinder's squad is coming off a 22-7 overall, 15-8 California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) record but losing five senior starters, including two from the frontcourt.

What will the 'Jack fans be seeing from him?

"Hard work and gritty, physical play." McConnell said. He will be playing the four spot, has two years of eligibility and is looking towards majoring in biology.

The education, on multiple levels, will continue.