The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

May 1, 2014

McLaughlin moving up

Edgewood standout will play at the next level at PSU-Behrend

Edgewood senior Connor McLaughlin knew the world of college basketball recruiting was a difficult one.

Despite finishing the season averaging double digits in points and rebounds, falling just a few assists shy of averaging a triple-double, McLaughlin ended his career without knowing whether he would play basketball again.

“It was kind of rough,” he admitted. “I would call some schools and they would say maybe they interested, maybe they weren’t. It was rough. I visited a few Division II schools, but I was hesitant about playing Division II. It was a tough process.”

But, the speculation and indecision ended when Penn State-Behrend’s season ended and made an offer to McLaughlin and he knew it was the place for him to continue his education and basketball career.

“Behrend won their conference and they were playing in the tournament,” he said. “Once their season ended, I was glad they made an offer right away and got right to me.

“I didn’t know if I was going to play or not, but when I went to an open gym after the season I knew I just wasn’t ready to stop playing. Penn State is closer to home, so my family can come watch. Other schools just didn’t feel quite like PSU. I liked the coaching staff as well, it felt like a good fit.”

As someone who hardly sniffed the varsity floor as a freshman with the Warriors, McLaughiln said he never would’ve imagined playing basketball after high school.

“As a freshman, I didn’t even play varsity, I dressed the last few games but that was it,” he said. “When (John) Bowler came in, he took me straight to varsity, so I have to give a lot of my success to him. If he would’ve have came to Edgewood, I don’t think I would be in this position.”

Basketball likely wasn’t the only option for McLaughlin.

After a successful football season as a receiver and in the midst of a solid baseball campaign, the multi-sport athlete likely could’ve gone on to play football or baseball if he was interested.

However, basketball remains his first love in sports.

“I thought about the other sports,” he said. “My summer baseball coach was trying to push me toward baseball and I always liked it. And (football coach) (Josh) Franke pushed me about football. I got to talk to a lot of schools for that this fall which was cool and was in the back of my mind.

“But I felt like I had to do something I really loved. I don’t think I would love going to another football practice. I love practicing basketball and I know I’ll enjoy continuing to play.”

McLaughlin said the Lions’ 4-out motion offense is a good fit for his skillset and could help him see time early on.

“The coaches told me I’m one of the bigger guards on the team, so they look for me to play and get into the rotation right away,” he said. “Their offense is a 4-out, 1-in system so they have a lot of 5-10-type guards. I bring a little more size and can guard bigger guards.”

Perhaps what made him more attractive to the PSU was his ability to rebound.

Following in the footsteps of his teammate Andrew Konczal, who was the 2012-13 Star Beacon Ashtabula County Player of the Year and also led the area rebounding, McLaughlin showed he had a strong all-around game this season.

“That’s what Bowler told me going into the season, I had to be more of a complete player,” he said. “The thing I learned from Andrew last year was rebounding and him being a bit undersized, we had to fill his 10 rebounds per game. That was what the coach at Penn State (Dave Niland) said he was interested in me because I was a complete player.

“He said the is full of guys who were their teams’ leading scorers in high school but you gotta rebound and pass and have a good IQ of the game to play at the next level and I think I have that.”

With that said, McLaughlin knows he needs to get physically stronger to be successful in college.

“I gotta get stronger, I think I can play right now with older guys and hold my own, but if I guard a 6-4 guy, I gotta be stronger and be stronger with the ball and draw fouls,” he said. “I think my speed will come with the flow of the game. It’s a different pace at that level after watching them, I’ll be all right with that but strength is most important.”

The son of Donna and Gary said his family is excited to see him continue to play.

“My dad didn’t know if I was going to play or not and my mom was really pushing for it,” he said. “She said, ‘you only get this one chance.’ So I’m really looking forward to going to school and I’m blessed with an opportunity most people don’t get.

“My grandpa thought I was done after our tournament game. I had never seen him get emotional but he thought it was my last game so he’s really excited to see me play.

“This was a load of stress of him and off me.”

While he’s excited to for the future, McLaughlin admits he is sad that his time with his fellow seniors — Matt Fitchet, Anthony Monda and Joey Zappitelli — has come to an end.

“I’m very grateful to be able to continue to play because I know those guys who aren’t going to continue to play will miss it and I’ll miss playing with them, more than anything,” he said. “I don’t think high school sports are about winning or losing, it’s the memories I’ll have with Joey, Anthony and Matt that I’ll carry with me the rest of my life.

“I think that means more than the wins and losses.”

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