As Georgia Tech tries to replenish its roster in the transfer market, Yellow Jackets coaches likely raised their eyebrows when Duke guard Alex O’Connell entered his name into the transfer portal Saturday.
As a four-star shooting guard at Milton High, O’Connell was highly coveted by Tech coach Josh Pastner as part of his first signing class. Pastner has often rued O’Connell as one who got away.
When sharing his recruiting laments, he has spoken of his belief that O’Connell was close to deciding on Tech in the summer of 2016 before Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski came in with a late offer and won his commitment.
With O’Connell in the portal, Pastner undoubtedly has interest in adding him to the roster. Given O’Connell’s previous interest in Tech and the potential to play regular minutes in the ACC on a team that has NCAA tournament potential, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he had interest in Tech as well.
Purely from a need standpoint, Pastner could use O’Connell. The Jackets have six rotational players back and would be helped by an energetic wing player with three years of experience playing and practicing for Krzyzewski, the coach with the most wins in Division I history.
Beyond that, Pastner recruited McConnell at length, competed against him and likely would feel comfortable adding him at a time when in-person contact may not be possible before a decision is made.
O’Connell, 6-foot-6 and 190 pounds, averaged 13.3 minutes this past season, achieving career highs in scoring (5.2 points per game) and rebounds (2.2 rebounds per game). He is considered an athletic player and a good shooter (he made 37.5% of his 3-point tries as a sophomore before dipping to 27.3% this past season).
He has had his moments – a 12-point, five-rebound, four-steal game against Notre Dame in February and a start against Colorado State in November in which he scored 14 points with six rebounds in 25 minutes (3-for-6 from 3-point range) among them.
As a rising senior, O’Connell has one season of eligibility remaining. As NCAA rules stand, he would have to sit out a season unless he were to receive a hardship waiver. However, it’s expected that the NCAA will approve a new rule permitting all Division I athletes to transfer once without having to sit out a season. Should it pass, O’Connell would be eligible to play immediately.
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