The Nittany Lions should make a push to land the former Duquesne point guard.
As new Penn State coach Pat Chambers continues to establish himself in Happy Valley, casualties of the transition from former coach Ed DeChellis' regime are beginning to mount.
In late January, freshman forward Peter Alexis announced he intended to transfer this offseason after failing to see the court with the Nittany Lions in 2011-2012. Then last week, guards Trey Lewis and Matt Glover decided to leave the program as well.
All this combined with the loss of junior forward Billy Oliver, who was forced to retire in February as a result of concussion-like symptoms, leaves the coaching staff with four scholarships to fill over the next few short weeks before the 2012 recruiting window closes.
At this point in the game, there aren't a whole lot of quality names left in the prospect pool. Other programs have snapped up most of the top talent that could help Chambers fill these holes on his roster.
With that in mind, Duquesne's loss of point guard T.J. McConnell to transfer on Tuesday should be Penn State's gain. The Chartiers Valley High School graduate is a perfect fit for the Lions on a number of fronts and makes too much sense in blue-and-white for Chambers and co. not to at least try to make a run at him.
The most obvious connection is a family one.
McConnell's aunt, Suzie McConnell-Serio, might be Penn State's proudest basketball export. She set numerous NCAA records during her time in State College and was named the program's first First-Team All-American. After graduation, she went on to win a gold medal with the U.S. Olympic team at the 1988 games in Seoul, South Korea and played professionally in the WNBA.
In short, there aren't many names in the Penn State basketball community that demand more respect than "McConnell," and any move by T.J. to Happy Valley would be greeted warmly by fans first and foremost.
The rising junior fills a lot of personnel holes, too, though.
With Lewis on his way out and Tim Frazier set to graduate after next season, Penn State will be in need of a point guard for 2013-2014. McConnell, after sitting out next season because of NCAA transfer rules, could bring his 11.4 points, 4.4 rebounds 5.5 assists and 2.8 steals per game (2011-2012 stats) to the table, proven college talent that could help Penn State avoid much of a dropoff from Frazier.
Then, there is McConnell's 43 percent shooting from three-point range, a consistency Penn State hasn't come close to matching in the backcourt since Stanley Pringle graduated after the 2008-2009 NIT championship season.
The big question, then, should be whether McConnell is interested in Penn State, not the other way around. The good news for Lions fans are there are a lot of signals to indicate he might be.
T.J.'s father, Tim, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Mike White that his son wants to play at a "higher level." The Big Ten is obviously a step up from the Atlantic 10, competition-wise, so the program has that going for it.
Tim also told White about his son's interest in local powers Pitt and Robert Morris:
"We just decided that those are two schools we would not pursue, just because of local rivalries," Tim McConnell said. "We don't think it would be a good idea to leave, and come back and play Duquesne on a yearly basis. We will look into some schools, but we will not look into Pitt or Robert Morris."
Right off the bat, Penn State's regional competition for McConnell has already been reduced.
It almost seems too perfect.
Tim McConnell told White the family plans to look at a lot of programs, so it's still to early in the process to even call Penn State a frontrunner for T.J.
It's hard to deny there are lot of big dots one can connect between the two, however, so don't be surprised to see the staff make a big push to blunt its recent losses by putting another McConnell in a Penn State uniform.