QA with Clear Lake head coach Lynn McDonald

Connor Atchley wasn’t a player that was talked about much in recruiting circles before last weekend’s AAU Tournament in Austin. But after a performance that was labeled as one of the best in a tournament that included the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge and Jason Horton, Atchley’s name was one of the hotter topics among college coaches that attended the event. On Monday, the 6-10 forward parlayed his strong performance into a scholarship offer from (and immediate commitment to) The University of Texas. We caught up with Houston Clear Lake head coach Lynn McDonald to get some more information on his standout prospect:
Did the commitment come as a surprise to you or was it something you saw coming?
I saw him being a college player but as far as it happening as quickly as it did, that was a bit of a surprise. I’m not surprised that when he had the opportunity to go to The University of Texas that he jumped on it. That’s a great school and they just came off the Final Four. If I would have been given that opportunity I would have jumped on it too.
I know he’s kind of just bursting on to the seen but did he have other schools that were coming after him?
Yes. Ever since that AAU Tournament up in Austin we’ve been getting a bunch of phone calls on him. Houston and Rice, UT-Arlington, New Mexico, Arizona State, SMU … quite a few really.
It sounds like his name really caught fire after that tournament. What kind of things did he show that you think put him on the map.
From what I gather, it’s things that we’ve tried to preach down here forever and that’s fundamentals. When the coaches would call and talk about him different ones would say different things. Some of them like the way he would spread out big in the post. Some liked the way he ran the floor. Some like the way that he has a nice shot and he has more than one offensive move. He got after it on defense and blocked out when the ball was shot. It was just his all-around game.
How would you describe his play for people who haven’t been able to see him play?
He’s very versatile. Growing up, really up until about halfway through this year, he’s played on the perimeter and inside. So he’s got the ability to play both outside and inside. In fact, this year we started him out on the perimeter because we have three post guys besides him. We started him outside because he had the best skills out on the perimeter. We weren’t getting enough out of the three other big guys with the style we wanted to play so we went to a three-guard line-up and moved him inside. But he still has the ability to pop out and shoot the 3. In fact, in our last game of the year we came down in a playoff game and kicked it out to him and he hit the 3. He can also post up and he’s got some nice moves around the basket. I just think he has a lot of versatility.
What things do you want to work on with Connor next year to make him an even better player?
For him to play at the level that The University of Texas wants he’ll need to get stronger. We lift weights three days a week and he’ll work hard this summer to get stronger. I think that will be the biggest thing, but of course there are always the little things, the fundamentals. We’ll continue to try to get those down and make him just a better all-around ballplayer.
It sounds like Connor has really made strides over the past year or so. To what do you attribute his recent improvement?
He’s played all his life. He’s gone from about 6-2 when he got here in the ninth grade to right at 6-10 now, so he’s grown quite a bit. He always had the ability to play, but as he got bigger and bigger it changed his role to a guy that has a chance to play inside and outside. What really has helped him maybe more than anything else as far as this spring goes, is his last playoff game when he hit 23 points and 15 rebounds in the area round. I think that gave him a whole lot of confidence.
Had Texas been recruiting him before the tournament last weekend or is that when he first hit their radar?
After that Austin AAU tournament is when he kind of hit everybody’s radar to tell you the truth. It’s really exciting. Connor’s been coming down here to the basketball camp ever since about second or third grade so I’ve known him for a lot of his life. For him to have an opportunity to go play at Texas is something else. He’s excited and I know we’re excited for him.
Is there anything you can tell me about him away from the court?
He’s just a great, great person. He makes good grades, has good work ethic, he comes from a good family. I can’t think of anything negative that could be said about him.