Last year’s statline: 4.4 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 14.0 MPG
Game Breakdown: Alex O’Connell came into last season with his projected numbers up in the air. There was a big question mark surrounding how much he would be used off the bench and what his role would look like for the team. With last year's star-studded class of freshmen immediately ready to fill out four starting spots and the majority of game minutes, it was uncertain how O’Connell would fit in. To the surprise of many, the Georgia native came out and proved a point. Playing crucial minutes off the bench, he was able to contribute significantly in nearly every game.
O’Connell appeared in 36 games last season and was a regular substitute for Cam Reddish. He showed great strides in improvement on both ends of the floor, recording five double-digit scoring performances and 20 steals, nearly doubling his total from his freshman campaign. He enters this upcoming season still with a lot to work on, however, starting with maintaining some consistent play.
Role on the team: With a relatively underwhelming incoming recruiting class, O’Connell’s strong improvements could land him a starting spot–something he proved he could do last season by starting seven games. The decision may come to down to whether head coach Mike Krzyzewski wants a more physical presence with freshman Cassius Stanley or a sharpshooter with O’Connell in the lineup. If he does come off the bench for a third year, it will be in a similar role as a strong sixth-man.
There is no question that the Milton High product can shoot. He’ll be one of the best–if not the best—shooters on the team and that combined with his length and quickness will make him a key player for this Blue Devil lineup. In addition to what he adds on the court, his leadership will be essential to the success of team. As he enters his junior year, he will adopt a new role as one of the more senior players who can command respect and help guide the freshmen.
NBA comparison: O’Connell plays the game similar to Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic, and although he has a few inches on Dragic, they each tote similar on-court abilities. Both O’Connell’s three-point shooting percentage and true shooting percentage mirror those of the Yugoslavian. Additionally, both players possess the athletic ability to attack the rim when given the chance. Not to mention, the 14-year NBA veteran and the third-year Blue Devil each add an element of experience to their teams' young rosters this season.
Projected stats: 7.6 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 18.2 MPG
Stay tuned to the Blue Zone for our continuing player previews. Previous players previewed include Michael Savarino, Keenan Worthington, Mike Buckmire, Justin Robinson, Jordan Goldwire, Joey Baker and Cassius Stanley.
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