The Junkyard dog is tough, nasty, gritty, first to the floor and most importantly never going to back down from any person, moment, or opportunity. It’s not the guy who scores the most points, or who makes the highlight reels, it’s the guy whose impact is felt via his passion, physicality and willingness to lay it all on the line for a W.
Welcome back to the place where THE Junkyard Dog in College Basketball gets awarded, on a bi-weekly basis. Yes it’s a weekly award presented bi-weekly, befitting the junkyard dog that surely isn’t constrained to the rules of conventional wisdom. We are right in the heart of February as the eyes of the sports world turn to College Hoops we are in the homestretch with Selection Sunday right around the corner. The latest of the wild stories in the hoops season has been the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, who have been on a historic run to plunge themselves right into the bubble mix. Their run of wins against Michigan St, Ohio St, Wisconsin and Illinois have put them in the National conversation, and as you could likely guess, they couldn’t have done something like this without at least one Junkyard Dog worthy guy. You could probably guess who this guy is if you’ve been at all paying attention to this run, and it is in fact, Caleb McConnell.
McConnell’s ability to lock down defensively and be a nightmare for opponents on that end of the floor has been paramount to the run that Rutgers has been on. During that historic 4 game winning streak (in which they became the first unranked team to beat 4 ranked teams in a row) he amassed 18 steals. That’s over 4 spg over the 4 game stretch, facing guys like Max Christie, Johnny Davis, EJ Liddell, and Alfonso Plummer. He has to be the clear favorite to win Big Ten DPOY this season and will 100% be a part of the All-Defensive team in the Conference, and well deserved that is. Much of the talk has been surrounding their hounding defense, as well as the scoring from Ron Harper Jr and Geo Baker, but it cannot be overstated how important McConnell’s role on the defensive end is. Just take a look at how much Coach Steve Pikiell values his defensive efforts.
McConnell joins the most underappreciated list of College Basketball Players going right now in the Country, one that includes KD Johnson (Auburn), J’Wan Roberts (Houston), Josiah-Jordan James (Tennessee), Brandon Murray (LSU) and Mason Gillis (Purdue). Some of the most unheralded players in all of the Nation, all guys who embody the Junkyard Dog in the fiercest of ways. McConnell may be the ultimate example, hidden for most of the year due to the struggles of his team, but now gets his chance to make his mark on the sport as the Scarlet Knights surge into the National Conversation. His resume for Big Ten DPOY has now made him the clear frontrunner and talk of his efforts have leaked far beyond New Jersey. Here we attempt to aid in that conversation, and will return in 2 weeks with yet another Junkyard Dog to highlight. Until then, check out this Rutgers team as they are one of the hottest teams in the country and play with an intensity found in very few programs across the country, all fueled by Caleb McConnell.