Local Celtic fan Pat Connaughton choosing basketball over baseball, possibly sticking it to Knicks
Local boy Pat Connaughton, who starred at St. John's Preparatory School in Danvers, is chasing his dream of making it in the NBA. His draft projections range from being a late 2nd rounder to not being drafted at all. Those projections mean his NBA future is anything but a lock, which has many shocked that the two sport star from Notre Dame has put professional baseball on the back burner (Connaughton was drafted by the Orioles in the fourth round of the 2014 MLB draft).
Connaughton has never been one to focus on a single sport, a rarity in this day and age of specialization among standout athletes. In high school he played quarterback for the football team, pitched and played many positions on the baseball team, and also starred in basketball. That hasn't happened with blue chip high school athletes since actually wearing your varsity jacket was cool.
Basketball seems to be the one he has had to overcome obstacles to continue playing, and maybe that's why he refuses to give it up. After his junior year of high school, Connaughton had scholarship offers from Boston College, Virginia, and UNC to play Division 1 baseball. Basketball was another story, as he was looking at a Division 2 offer from nearby Bently (tip of the hat to those scouts). According to ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman, his future was changed with one dazzling performance. At the AAU Nationals in Orlando, FL, Connaughton had his coming out party, putting up a 33 point and 20 rebound game that put his name on the map.
"That week completely changed my entire life," Connaughton said.
Notre Dame, Boston College, UCLA and others offered him scholarships with promises of playing both baseball and basketball, and the Irish won out.
Now Connaughton is at yet another basketball crossroads. He has the Orioles on the back burner, and is going all-in on his less certain basketball potential. Remind you of anybody? ESPN.com's Chris Forsberg thinks it may be similar to the route of Danny Ainge to the Celtics. Forsberg also points out some other Celtic connections (besides growing up in Arlington and being a fan of the team), such as playing AAU with Ainge's son Cooper, and growing up playing with Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca's son.
Aside from quoting Cris Carter there is nothing not to like about this kid. An unabashed Celtic fan (even to the point of jokingly saying he would tank his Knicks workout), STARVING for the chance to play professional basketball, 6'5" and athletic as hell.
The Celtics own a mid 2nd round pick at this moment, though who knows if that will hold as rumors of every conceivable draft trade angle abound with the active Ainge as our GM, and if they don't want to use it on him would seem to have the fast track on signing him as an undrafted free agent.
With heart and hustle shining in our current NBA Finals in the mold of the semi-athletic and fully annoying Matthew Dellavedova, a late pick or a flyer on him as a free agent may be worth it when you seem to have a prospect you know will absolutely give it 100% and not cost much money. It may not make as much sense for our Celtics as I hope, as Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart would seem to clog his position, but someone will take a shot on this guy.
Judging by Connaughton's past, they will be happy they did.
Photo 1 Credit: South Bend Tribune/Robert Franklin
Photo 2 Credit: Alamy