WPIAL alum Q&A with Chartiers Valley grad Matty McConnell
When it comes to Western Pennsylvania basketball, perhaps no last name holds more distinction than McConnell. Matty McConnell has lived up to the family legacy thus far, as a champion at Chartiers Valley, and is currently a top player at Robert Morris.
McConnell is profiled in this week’s WPIAL alum Q&A.
McConnell was a four-year letterwinner at Chartiers Valley and helped guide the Colts to at least 20 wins in each season. As a freshman in 2011-12, McConnell played in all 23 games and scored nearly 9 points per game. The team finished 20-3, losing in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs to Butler.
The following year, McConnell appeared in 29 games, averaging just shy of 16 points, as well as 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 steals. Chartiers Valley reached the Class AAA championship game before falling to Montour. The Colts also won a pair of PIAA postseason contests, finishing 24-5.
In McConnell’s junior campaign, he increased his scoring output to 22.7 points per contest, while also contributing 8.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 5.1 steals and 1.6 blocks. The Colts again reached the title game that season, but lost in a heartbreaker to Central Valley, 70-69. Chartiers Valley rebounded to win a state playoff game, and its season ended with a mark of 25-3.
McConnell and the Colts got over the hump during his senior season, however. In 2014-15, Chartiers Valley compiled a record of 23-4. In the Class AAAA playoffs, the Colts defeated Butler, Upper St. Clair and North Hills to reach the championship game. From there, McConnell netted 34 points and his squad bested North Allegheny, 78-67, to claim gold. In addition to the team success, McConnell produced a monster season. He scored 29.4 points per game, which topped the WPIAL, and also averaged 9.1 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 4.9 steals and 1.3 blocks. He concluded his storied career with more than 2,000 points.
From there, McConnell continued his career at Robert Morris. As a freshman in the 2015-16 campaign, he played in 29 games, including 26 starts. Although McConnell struggled with his shooting, he still averaged 6.8 points, and contributed 66 assists and 57 steals. The Colonials endured a tough season, finishing just 10-22.
Last year, McConnell started 27 of 33 games in which he played, and increased his output to 7.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, and also chipped in 54 steals. Robert Morris improved to 14-19, including a mark of 9-9 in the Northeast Conference.
This season, McConnell ranks third on the team with a scoring average of 9.9 through the first 15 games. He’s second on the Colonials in both assists (46) and steals (21). Perhaps more importantly, Robert Morris has a winning record, at 8-7, after winning its first two conference tilts.
McConnell took time away from the court to answer questions about his team’s improvement, his best memory at Chartiers Valley, and his relationship with his famous brother.
How have you grown as a player in your three seasons at Robert Morris?
In my three years at Robert Morris, I have grown by becoming more of a leader and more than just a 3-point shooter; I have become a better driver and a better facilitator. I still have my 3-point shooting in my game, but I’m able to do more than shoot.
In which areas do you still need to improve?
The biggest thing I need to improve on is becoming as consistent as I can. There are some games I won’t have a lot of points or hit a lot of shots. I need to be able to be consistent from game to game, and be the scorer and the defender I know I can be.
What has been your best college basketball moment thus far?
My best college basketball moment was having 20 points against LIU Brooklyn in the NEC Tournament quarterfinals, and beating them to move onto the semifinals.
Robert Morris has seemingly improved in each of your seasons. What has been the key to that success, and what is the outlook for the rest of this campaign?
The key to the success over the years has been just getting as many guys as possible to buy into the system and to follow the formula each and every game. For the rest of this season, we are looking to improve every day and to hopefully win the NEC and make it to the NCAA Tournament.
What led to your decision to attend RMU?
What made me decide to attend RMU is that it’s really close to home, and I can have my family come to my games. I also really had a special bond with the coaches from the beginning, and they just treated me the right way and didn’t lie about anything.
What is your major and ideal future profession?
My major is organizational leadership, and for my future profession, I want to go play overseas and then when that is over, I want to get into basketball training and start a basketball program.
What has been your favorite college class thus far?
My favorite college class thus far had to be argument and research. I had such a good teacher, and the people I had in my class were just a joy to be around every day that we had class.
You had a great career at Chartiers Valley. What was your best memory?
My best memory was hitting a three-quarter court shot for my 2,000th point in the WPIAL Class Quad-A championship game. We went on to win the game, as well. I had 34 points.
Do you still closely follow the Colts or WPIAL athletics?
I try to make as many games for the Colts, and on Twitter, I try to see who is leading in scoring and how the top recruits are doing.
Your brother, TJ, has established himself as a very good NBA player. What is your relationship like with him, and how has he helped your basketball career?
Me and T.J. have a very strong relationship; we text or talk on the phone every day. He has helped me in my basketball career, working out with me and pushing me to the limit in workouts. He always tells me to keep my head up and just be as confident as I can every day.
Aside from your brother, who is your favorite professional athlete?
Other than my brother, I have always been a huge LeBron James fan. He played a high-school game here in Pittsburgh, and I saw that game and liked him ever since.
What is your favorite sports movie?
My favorite sports movie is “Like Mike.”
What is the best Christmas gift you ever received?
The best Christmas gift I have ever received is when my parents surprised me, my brother and sister with a trip to Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
If your life biography was made into a movie, who would play you?
I would have to pick Zac Efron. He played the star player in “High School Musical.”
Sean Meyers is a freelance writer.