Growing up playing basketball in Phoenix, Richard “Mickey” McConnell closely watched as the Phoenix Suns had success year after year in large part to their play at point guard with Kevin Johnson, Jason Kidd and then Steve Nash.
They were players he looked up to and wore a uniform he dreamed to put on. Little did he know that at the age of 26, he would be getting the opportunity to wear that same name across his chest, practice on the same practice court and represent the same team.
Mickey McConnell is getting another opportunity to prove to another NBA franchise his worth on a regular season roster as he has been named to the Phoenix Suns’ Summer League roster this July.
“I think growing up, you always have those dreams of playing for your hometown team,” McConnell said after the Summer Suns practice on Wednesday. “I got to follow the Suns during their great stretches where they had great players so, it’s always been a dream because it’s the hometown team but it’s been great being here so far.”
It is not the first time he has worn the Suns across his chest however. His first pre-draft workout after college was in Phoenix but that is the last time he had stepped foot in US Airways Center as a player.
“It’s a great feeling putting the jersey on and it’s cool for all my friends and family,” he mentioned.
McConnell’s name is etched in the Dobson Mustang record books. He finished his career with a school record 1,650 points and a record 545 assists over his four years. All playing for his Dad Rick McConnell who still coaches the Mustangs today. His grandfather Dick McConnell was once the winningest high school coach in the state with 774 wins at Tucson Sahuaro but that record has since been broken by Mesa Mountain View’s Gary Ernst.
Though McConnell focuses on the coaches in front of him now, there are still the teachings of his Dad and Grandfather in the back of his mind on the floor.
“They do a good job of saying ‘you have another coach now so whatever he says goes,'” explained McConnell. “Maybe with little things shooting-wise or zip my passes are pretty good about taking a step back and just kind of enjoying it.”
Since graduating from Dobson high school in 2007, he has made a name for himself just about everywhere he has gone. It all started at Saint Mary’s College up until 2011 where he finished second in school history in assists and was named2011 West Coast Conference player of the year. Since, he has spend time with the Hornets and Clippers summer league teams and just missed making the Dallas Mavericks roster in 2013-14. But getting over that hump of making an NBA roster has just not come to fruition and is hoping that getting another crack at it in his home town could make that dream a reality.
“Just have to work hard, play hard, get up defensively and pressure the ball, take care of the ball on offense” McConnell explained on what it will take this time around. “We have a lot of talented players, a lot of talented wings so my job is to get them shots in the right spot.”
McConnell has spent a bulk of his time overseas in Germany and in Italy. In 2011-12 after college he signed on with the Fileni BPA Jesi of the Italian A2 Gold League where he averaged 17.6 points and 3.4 assists in 28 games. He returned to the Italian A2 Gold League in 2012-13 as a member of Telenis Verona where he played 32 games and averaged 13. points and 2.7 assists. He played 10 games in Germany last season.
“I’ve got to see a lot of the world,” he stated. “Just culturally it’s a great experience and it makes you grow up quick. You go from college where you’re taken care of pretty well to living on your own and cooking meals for yourself. And no one speaks the language. So it’s been a great experience and I think I’ve grown up a lot since leaving Saint Mary’s.
As for being with the Suns now during summer league, he knows the pace and style the team likes to play at under head coach Jeff Hornacek which is what Summer League Coach Nate Bjorkgren plans to implement.
“They are trying to push the tempo a lot and the big key is trying to push the ball,” McConnell mentioned. “I grew up during Kevin Johnson and Jason Kidd and Nash and on those teams, the ball moved and flew up the court so it’s been a fun couple of days so far.”
If McConnell was to use a bargaining chip to making this Suns team in addition to what he knows can show off on the floor, it is the fact that the last two NBA Finals have included a former Saint Mary’s guard. Last year with Patty Mills of the San Antonio Spurs and this past season with Matthew Dellavadova on the Cleveland Cavs. There could be that Saint Mary’s gem that is now needed to get a team to the Finals?
“I haven’t yet but it sure helps,” said McConnell. “Delly this year and Patty let year, they’ve done a lot for our school and people were so surprised by it but everyone in the Saint Mary’s family was not shocked at all just because of the way they work and you see them day-in and day-out and it’s been pretty cool to watch.”
McConnell and the Suns continue two-a-day practices on this week before heading to begin their summer league play in Las Vegas on Saturday, July 11th.