“It’s been better,” Connaughton said of his junior season. “It’s been more consistent. Freshman year was okay and I showed flashes as a sophomore, but I was never consistent. It’s better right now but there’s still much more that I can build on.”
Jay Williams, the ex-Duke great who now does a heavy schedule of games as a commentator for ESPN, has paid particular attention to Connaughton’s approach to the game.
“In my job, I see games all over the country. I see all the (major) teams and all the big time players,” Williams said off camera during a short halftime break Sunday night. “The thing that’s most impressive about Pat, I think, is his mentality. I think 80 percent of the guys I see have an immature approach to the game. Pat is in that other (20 percent). He’s here to work on his game all the time. If I were to shake his hand before a game, he would acknowledge me, but he’d be distracted. He just wants to focus. That’s a great asset. He’s a great asset to that team.”
Connaughton has turned the difficult challenge of playing a full 40 minute game into a routine achievement, something that simultaneously amazes and amuses his teammates. He leads the ACC in minutes played because Brey simply can’t afford to take him out of the lineup.
“As you probably already know around here, Pat is a machine,” said senior forward Tom Knight. “We’ve been shorthanded this season, so it’s 40 minute Pat for us. He’s just been a warrior.”
“I get to play a lot of minutes, but I think what Pat does is more impressive,” said point guard Eric Atkins, who ranks second in the ACC in minutes played. “Pat is often playing down low, banging against the big guys. That’s tougher than what I have to do.”