Still, it’s his rebounding that is the most extraordinary part of his game. Seeing his size – or lack of it – two years ago, no one could have predicted he’d have this kind of rebounding impact in an elite conference.
“He’s exceeded expectations, no question about it,” said Notre Dame assistant coach Rod Balanis. “He’s the best 6-foot-4 rebounding guy I’ve ever seen, and I’m 43 years old and seen a lot of guys.”
Eye on future in baseball, basketball
Virtually every time Notre Dame has been on national TV this season, one of the announcers invariably brings up the subject of Connaughton the baseball player. A right-handed pitcher, Connaughton was named a Top 50 prospect by Perfect Game and he’s also on Baseball America’s Top 100 list. The speculation is that Connaughton will be drafted and could opt sign a pro contract. Under the rules, he could still return for his senior basketball season at Notre Dame, but there are no guarantees.
Naturally, the ND coaches would love to see him be a four-year player. With Atkins graduating this spring, Connaughton would be the ideal veteran off guard to go along with Jerian Grant, who left the team after 12 games this season due to an academic issue. Grant was averaging a team-high 19 points when he left.
“I think Pat’s plan is…well, he will probably be a high draft choice in baseball,” said Balanis. “He might go play rookie ball this year, but we have a trip to Italy in August and I think he plans to be on that tour with us. We’d be looking good with Connaughton and Grant in the backcourt next season. I’m confident he’ll be back. I actually think he could play professional basketball if he put his mind to it. Basketball is his first love.”