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An Appreciation of Pat Connaughton

With the best season in Notre Dame Basketball history in the books and a long offseason up ahead, the OFD staff will take a look back at the 2014/15 season before exploring how the team might look going forward. The first entry focuses on departing senior captain Pat Connaughton, and his incredible ND hoops career.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Pat Connaughton entered Notre Dame after a decorated high school career as a consensus Top-100 recruit and the state (commonwealth?) player of the year in Massachusetts. Four years later, Pat left the basketball program as one of its greatest players ever. Every conversation surrounding Pat always seems to start with his size, or lack of it. Due to the team's lack of size, the 6'5" 218 lb Connaughton frequently guarded bigger players in the post. Despite being undersized as a power forward, Pat grabbed far more than his share of rebounds and had absolutely no reservations about posterizing bigger players. Pat also had one of the best jump shots in the country finishing second in the conference in 3pt FG%. Unsurprisingly, Connaughton was the only player in the top 10 in both 3pt shooting and rebounding in the ACC.

While the Irish will miss his huge contributions on the court, next year's team will miss his leadership as well. His teammates all spoke about how well he led the team as its captain this season. Zach Auguste, after his double-dribble in the dying seconds of regulation against Butler credited Pat for keeping him positive and ready to play in overtime. Pat appeared in every Irish game during his four year career, setting the Notre Dame record for games played with 139. He finished with over 1400 points and 800 rebounds, but ultimately the numbers fall short of describing his impact on the program.

As anyone who watched an ND basketball this year knows, Pat is also an excellent pitcher. He was drafted twice in the MLB Draft, first as a high school senior in the late rounds by the Sand Diego Padres, and more recently by the Baltimore Orioles in the 4th round after his junior year at Notre Dame. By declaring his intention to return for his senior basketball season, Connaughton gave up hundreds of thousands of dollars from potential MLB clubs. Playing in the Orioles farm system last summer, Pat pitched 14.2 innings with a 2.45 ERA and 10 Ks. While he definitely has a future in baseball, Connaughton plans to enter the NBA draft and try to continue his basketball career.
Connaughton seemed to make it clear that he was pursuing only an NBA opportunity in basketball, and wouldn't delay his baseball career if his only basketball options were abroad.

"Yeah, absolutely," he said. "For me, I love basketball and I love baseball. I am not going to hinder my ability to get to MLB as fast as possible to go overseas in France or Europe." - MASN

Connaughton's career is filled with highlights, and he made more than his share of big plays in the Irish run to the Elite Eight and ACC Title. Connaughton was third on the team in scoring, and led in rebounds and blocks. His consistent play earned him 3rd Team All-ACC honors from both the coaches and media. His best game of the season may have been in the ACC Championship game against North Carolina. Connaughton had 20 points on 7/9 shooting from the field and 4/5 from deep. Two of those 3s were during the incredible second half run that gave ND their first ever conference title. Pat's big plays weren't limited to his senior season, however, as he had one of the plays of the season last year against Duke. With a small lead late in the game, Connaughton drove the lane and posterized future NBA lottery pick Jabari Parker.

Connaughton also had one of the plays of the season for this year's team saving the game for the Irish against Butler with a huge block in the final seconds of the regulation.

During the final game of the Irish season, Connaughton outrebounded every player on UK's roster tying teammate Zach Auguste with a game high nine boards. Additionally, Pat's drive and dunk put fear into the Kentucky fans in attendance and watching at home.

While his ability as a basketball player and leader of the program more than qualify Pat for a spot in the Purcell Pavilion Ring of Honor, Connaughton will also be remembered as a fantastic person. While he demonstrated his commitment to his teammates and his own education by returning for his senior year, this story came to light in the days after the team's loss to Kentucky. If you haven't read it before, take the time to do so because it will make anyone associated with Notre Dame proud. We were all lucky to watch Pat for the last four years, and whether it's on the pitcher's mound or on the court, he's sure to have a great career in the pros.