After his clutch shooting and playmaking helped Duquesne scare the Arizona Wildcats on Nov. 9 at McKale Center, guard T.J. McConnell didn't ever consider he might have just visited his future home.
But once UA coach Sean Miller called to recruit him last month, following McConnell's decision to transfer from the Dukes earlier this month, McConnell looked back at that game a bit differently.
"I didn't have plans to come here after the season," McConnell said Tuesday, after committing to the Wildcats over Virginia. "But once he contacted me, I said, 'That was one heck of an atmosphere to play in, and the players were very, very talented.'"
McConnell hit a 12-footer just before halftime to give Duquense a 30-28 halftime lead and, although UA hung on for a 67-59 win, McConnell had nine points, six rebounds and four assists while playing 37 minutes.
Essentially, McConnell validated Miller's praise before the game.
"I think he's one of the best point guards in the country," Miller said beforehand. "He's the consummate point guard. He makes his teams better. … He's a really, really good player who will test our point guards."
Miller won't be able to comment on McConnell as a Wildcat until sometime after the spring signing period begins today. UA may wait for an announcement until a letter of intent is received by Cochise College forward Matt Korcheck.
But Miller's November comments made it clear what he thinks of McConnell. What wasn't clear until Tuesday was what McConnell thought of Miller and the Wildcats.
"I just really loved everything about Arizona, Coach Miller and his staff," McConnell said. "Playing for a guy like coach Miller, I fit into the style of the way they play. I think I fit in really well."
McConnell said he also enjoyed getting to know the Wildcat players, and raved about both the talent on hand and the talent coming in. Arizona now has a six-man recruiting class, including its four fall signees composing the consensus No. 1 fall class in the nation.
UA's high-level coaches and players, McConnell said, were what he was looking for. McConnell said he "loved" his Duquesne teammates and former Dukes coach Ron Everhart, who was fired last month, but wanted to play with a bigger program.
Miller made sure McConnell knew UA was that program.
"He was telling me we could possibly go on a Final Four run when I get eligible, and that we might even be able to do it next year," McConnell said.
McConnell will sit out next season under NCAA transfer rules and will have two seasons to play, starting in 2013-14. His addition, however, means the Wildcats are now one over their 12-man scholarship limit for next season.
Among other possibilities, the Wildcats could lose freshman point guard Josiah Turner, who remains indefinitely suspended for unspecified reasons.
If Turner stays until 2013-14, he and McConnell could be battling for playing time, but McConnell said Turner's status "didn't really affect my decision."
What McConnell did consider was that, after playing near his Pittsburgh-area home at Duquesne, he'll now be in a program and a conference he used to occasionally watch on late-night television.
"That did go through my mind," McConnell said. "But I sat down with my parents and said, 'I think it's time to experience being away from home, something I haven't experienced.'"
McConnell's father, Tim, the basketball coach at Chartiers Valley High School, didn't argue that point. Tim McConnell has a longtime relationship with Miller but also said he was impressed with Virginia and coach Tony Bennett.
"It came down to T.J. making the decision that was best for him," Tim McConnell said. "As a parent, I really liked Virginia and said, 'You know what? I would be happy if he goes there. I'm happy either way.'"
T.J. McConnell • Guard
Size: 6-1, 185
High School: Chartiers Valley
2011-12 season averages: 11.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2.6 turnovers
• Atlantic 10 Conference Rookie of the Year, 2010-11
• Atlantic 10 third-team all conference, 2011-12