June 25, 2015
Brooklyn, N.Y. –
Together, Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton helped script a storybook season for the University of Notre Dame men’s basketball program in 2014-15. A first-ever Atlantic Coast Conference championship, a trip to the NCAA Championship Elite Eight for the first time since 1979 and a second 30-win season in the program’s 110-year history were all part of the enduring legacy they leave behind on the Purcell Pavilion hardwood.
So it seemed only fitting Thursday night at the 2015 National Basketball Association Draft that both would hear their names called. For the first time since 1992 (LaPhonso Ellis as the fifth overall pick and Elmer Bennett as a second-round choice), Notre Dame had two draft selections in the same year.
Grant became the 17th player in program history, and third under head coach Mike Brey, to be selected in the first round as the 19th overall pick by the Washington Wizards. Less than an hour after hearing his name, he was traded to the New York Knicks. The Bowie, Maryland native was there on Thursday evening at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York as one of 19 special invitees to the green room
Connaughton’s selection came 22 picks later when he was chosen in the second round by the Brooklyn Nets as the 41st pick overall, but like his teammate, the Arlington, Massachusetts native was traded to the Portland Trailblazers. He spent the evening waiting for the call with family in friends in Massachusetts.
“I feel truly blessed,” Grant said when interviewed by ESPN after he stood on stage with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “I just want to go out and prove that I belong. I am a winner.”
Brey, who was there with Grant in Brooklyn on Thursday night, was overcome with emotion when speaking about his two special leaders.
“The amazing story continues for two of the classiest players that I have ever coached,” Brey said. “It was a powerful night not only for Jerian and Pat, but also for our program. Our storybook season continued tonight at the NBA draft. To have two of our players drafted on the same night is a great endorsement for what we have accomplished.
“I couldn’t be more happy for these two great ambassadors for our University. They were rewarded in a big way tonight. Talking with some of the media tonight in New York, I know that there is a sense of excitement that Jerian will be joining the Knicks.
The selection of Grant and Connaughton, now gives Brey five draft picks during his 15-year coaching tenure. Troy Murphy (1998-2001) was the first-ever NBA pick under Brey when he was taken 14th overall by the Golden State Warriors in 2001. One year later, Ryan Humphrey (2000-02) followed as the 19th overall pick by the Utah Jazz. Eight years later, Luke Harangody (2006-10) was chosen in the second round (52nd overall) by the Boston Celtics.
Grant will become the fourth member of his family to play in the NBA. His uncle Horace was the 10th overall pick in the 1987 draft and played in the league from 1987-2004. He played on four NBA championship teams, winning three titles with the Chicago Bulls and one with the Los Angeles Lakers. Grant’s father Harvey was drafted a year later in 1988 as the 10th pick and played for the Washington Bullets, Portland Trailblazers and Philadelphia 76ers before his retirement in 1999. His younger brother Jerami played two seasons at Syracuse and was a second-round pick (39th overall) in the 2014 draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. The younger Grant averaged 6.3 points and 3.0 rebounds during his rookie season.
It was the second time in as many years that Connaughton had his name called in a professional draft. The talented pitcher was taken in the fourth round of the 2014 Major League Baseball draft by the Baltimore Orioles.
The duo of Connaughton and Grant forever will be linked to the success of the past basketball season as they were the catalysts behind this season’s success, thanks to their play on the floor and their leadership on and off the hardwood. Together, they produced staggering numbers over the past four seasons as they combined for 3,204 points, 250 games played, 240 starts, 1,166 rebounds, 947 assists, 268 steals and 8,821 minutes played (34.2 minutes per game).
Grant was a first team All-America selection by nearly every major outlet during the past season. A John R. Wooden Award finalist, he was named to the Wooden All-America team and was a first team All-America selection by the Associated Press, the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) and the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA). He also was a second-team selection by the Sporting News.
Grant is the only player in Notre Dame history to score more than 1,700 points, dish off 600 assists, make 150 steals and block 30 shots. He finished his career with 1,739 points, 690 assists, 175 steals and 37 blocked shots. Grant also grabbed 343 rebounds during the 119 games he played in during his career. He started 117 of those contests to rank fifth all-time in that category.
Grant finished 11th on Notre Dame’s career scoring list, third in assists and fifth in steals. He was one of two players nationally in 2014-15 to score more than 600 points, dish off 200 assists and make 50 steals during the season. Grant also was the seventh player in ACC history to accomplish that feat.
He registered double-figure scoring efforts 99 times during his career (34 times during the 2014-15 campaign) and led the Irish in scoring on 47 occasions in the 119 games he played. Grant finished with 20 or points 11 times and in 25 career contests. He recorded five double-doubles during the past season and nine for his career.
A first-team all-ACC selection, Grant was named MVP of the ACC Tournament after averaging 16.7 points and 6.3 assists. The unanimous first team All-ACC pick also was named to the league’s all-defensive team. Grant led the Irish in scoring (628 points), assists (253) and steals (63) this season. He played every minute (165) of Notre Dame’s four NCAA Tournament games and averaged 14.3 points and 6.8 assists.
Connaughton, a third-team all-ACC honoree, averaged 12.5 points (third on the team) and a team-leading 7.4 rebounds. He played in more games (139) than any other player in Notre Dame history (never missing a game) and started 123 of those contests (third all-time). Connaughton made 120 consecutive starts to rank as just one of three players at Notre Dame to make 100 or more consecutive starts.
He finished as the eighth player in school history with better than 1,400 points and 800 rebounds. His 1,465 career points ranks him 16th all-time on the Notre Dame career scoring list. Connaughton scored in double figures 26 times during the season and on 74 occasions throughout his career. He netted 20-plus points on three occasions in 2014-15 and 11 times in four seasons. Connaughton registered 10-plus rebound 10 times during his senior season and 20 times in his career. He also led the Irish with nine double-doubles this season and registered 16 during his career.
Connaughton was named to the NCAA Championship Midwest Region All-Tournament Team and was a first team ACC All-Tournament Team honoree. He averaged 10.0 points and 7.3 rebounds during Notre Dame’s four NCAA tournament contests and 11.9 points and 5.9 rebounds during its six postseason (ACC and NCAA) games.
The ACC led all conferences with seven first-round draft picks and 12 players drafted overall. The 12 players selected were the most by the ACC since the 14 draftees in 1987.
In addition to Grant’s selection, the other six players drafted in the first round were Duke’s Jahlil Okafor from Duke (third pick by Philadelphia), Duke’s Justise Winslow (10th pick by Miami), Louisville’s Terry Rozier (16th pick by Boston), Virginia’s Justin Anderson (21st pick by Dallas), Duke’s Tyus Jones (24th pick by Cleveland) and Syracuse’s Chris McCullough (29th pick by Brooklyn).