As for the homecoming part of the deal, he couldn’t have dreamed up a better scenario. Decked out in an Arlington shirt, he couldn’t wait to visit family, friends and fans who have followed him through every stage of his career, including his 1,700-plus point stint at the Prep, a school he led to the Division 1 state title three years ago.
At BC Sunday, Connaughton drew a louder reception in pregame introduction than any player from the home team.
“I told the media in South Bend (earlier in the week) that I would probably get a better ovation here than I do at the Purcell Pavilion in South Bend,” joked Connaughton, who was able to coax extra tickets from his teammates. “I couldn’t tell you how many people are here, but we can go out there and count them if you want. I tried to act serious (while hearing the ovation), but I did smile, so that didn’t work out. It was just so cool.
“I have to give credit to my teammates for the game. The big guys were screening for me and that allowed me to get the ball, and Eric (referring to point guard Eric Atkins) was distributing. We had chemistry on offense and defense. At the end of the day, it was all them.”
Leading the ACC in minutes, defensive rebounds
Connaughton is well into the second half of his career at Notre Dame, but his career trajectory hasn’t reached its apogee.
He’s improved every year, particularly this season with the numbers taking a dramatic leap over a solid sophomore campaign, from 8.9 to 13.2 ppg, and from 4.7 rebounds to 7.4. He leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in defensive rebounding (6.5 per game) even though he’s only 6-foot-4 and taking on prime big-man recruits from Duke, North Carolina and other traditional power schools.