Basketball has given T.J. McConnell a lot. Now he’s giving back.
On Wednesday, the Philadelphia 76ers exercised McConnell’s team option for 2018-19 that will pay him $1.6 million.
The same day, McConnell was at the University of Arizona, making a guest appearance at Sean Miller Basketball Camp where he gave some advice — about basketball and life — to a large group of campers.
Here was his message:
“Instilling a work ethic is something important to me and it started at your age, and it takes a lot of sacrifice,” McConnell said. “I didn’t hang out with my friends as much because I was always in the gym. If you want to be good and play Division 1 basketball, you have to set goals, and that’s what I did.
“Playing for [Sean Miller], I wouldn’t be standing here talking about playing in the NBA without him. I never thought I’d be able to play in the NBA ever, and the fact I get to talk to you guys about it is pretty cool.
“Has anyone ever told you that you’re not good enough to do something? Raise your hand if that’s happened. I can do both hands. Don’t listen to them. That’s been told to me since I was a little kid and if you set your mind to something and work hard enough, you can achieve anything.
“I think I’m living proof of that. A small kid from Pittsburgh doesn’t usually end up in the NBA, so if you set your mind to something, set goals, play the right way, and be a good person, I’m telling you it will get you a long way. Not only in basketball, but in life. So don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something. Anything you set your mind to, you’ll be able to do.”
The campers then got a chance to ask McConnell questions. One kid wondered what the most difficult part of making an NBA roster is.
McConnell, entering his fourth season, was an undrafted free agent, after all.
“I had to go to training camp against six other point guards and I just had to outwork them and luckily I did,” McConnell said.
“If you’re ever on your teams and you want to do stuff that stands out to your coach, I was always the first one in the gym, the last one to leave, pick people up full court, make them work, and just be the best player I can be.”
One camper asked McConnell who is favorite teammate is, and he said it’s former Wildcat Jerryd Bayless.
“He’s one of the greatest dudes I’ve ever been around,” McConnell said.