Etched into History: Connor McKim
“It’s something I feel like I need to go do,” Connor McKim said on going to the basketball gym. “I feel weird if I don’t.”
You would think all basketball players would love to put in the work, but it’s not that easy. It takes time, commitment and a need to better yourself when no one else is looking.
Connor McKim put in the work and because of that he became the first St. X player since 1970 to be named Region Player of the Year. Some great basketball players have walked the halls of St. X including Scott Padgett, who would go on to win a National Championship at Kentucky and play in the NBA for eight years. Padgett and every other basketball player since 1970 never achieved that award. McKim did.
As Coach Bryan Just wrote in an article to McKim, “He brought excitement, electricity, and hype into this program. He brought unity to both current and past students, as well as anyone surrounding the school or program.” He did all of that while not being the loudest or flashiest player on the court. He let his numbers speak for themselves and with that he left a mark on St. X’s rich athletic tradition. He realized that the team came before everything else and that success would only be earned through grit and sweat.
Going into his eighth grade year at St. Gabriel, McKim didn’t necessarily know where he would end up. He had spent the summer playing basketball with Male, but his dad had gone to St. X and his grandmother lived very close to St. X.
“That’s where I wanted to go,” McKim said. “I guess it’s kind of lucky that the Male thing didn’t work out, and I ended up here.”
Once McKim ended up at St. X, he didn’t really know what to expect.
“Just coming into a school that was so big basketball wise was different,” McKim said. “When you go from St. Gabriel where I was the top guy, coming in here I knew it was going to be completely different.”
Will Olsen, a senior on this year’s basketball team, has played with McKim since sixth grade. The two of them played together for Focus, an AAU team, from sixth to eighth grade year. With the two of them playing together for a couple of years before coming to St. X, that gave them an advantage when it came to their chemistry on the court.
“We’ve always meshed great,” Olsen said. “He’s the ideal teammate anyone could ask for. He can take over a game at any time and carried us to so many huge wins. His game has grown tremendously from being just a penetrator and slasher to one of the best shooters in the state. With lightning speed, he can stop on a dime and then rise up and knock down the midrange. His three point shooting has been the most improved part of his game in my eyes though.”
As a freshman, McKim didn’t expect to play, but by the end of the year he was practicing with the varsity team. The year before McKim arrived on campus, St. X had reached the regional championship, so expectations were high that year. A disappointing loss was the finale of McKim’s freshman season as St. X lost to Central in the first round of the 2013 7th Region Tournament.
“I remember sitting on the bench for that game and just being in that atmosphere for a varsity game where if you lose you go home,” McKim said. “Just seeing how crushed some of the guys were kind of put things in perspective a little bit. St. X basketball is bigger than you. It’s bigger than what you’ve been a part of, and it motivated me to never have that feeling.”
After that season, McKim sat down for his individual meetings with the coaches. One of the things brought up in those meetings was possibly changing his shot. McKim was told he was shooting flat footed and that he had an index finger that wasn’t supposed to be on the ball which was causing the ball to not have any rotation.
Changing your shot is no easy task, and it certainly wasn’t easy for McKim. He was playing AAU basketball in the summer between his freshman and sophomore year, and it was difficult.
“I was short every time,” McKim said. “I was trying to get my new shot going because jumping in the air requires some strength that I didn’t really have back then and so there were big growing pains with that. It took a while to fix.”
The shot eventually became natural for McKim, and if you watched him play at all last season, you could see the results of the change paid off. He completely fixed his shot and has been able to build on it for these past two years.
“I think it was good for me to get done with that early on,” McKim said. “It was extremely tough for me because you get so frustrated. I couldn’t hit anything while I was in the middle of changing my shot.”
With his new shot rounding into form, McKim’s confidence grew. Confidence is not something easily attained but requires hard work. Coming into his senior season, his confidence was at a high. McKim expected to have a big year, but he didn’t expect this big of a year.
“Honestly, if you would have told me I would have this good of a senior season, I would have thought you were crazy,” McKim said. “Just because to do what I did consistently, looking back on it, is really tough especially in the 7th region. I wasn’t expecting that to happen.”
His senior season didn’t start off the way he wanted it to though. St. X fell to Central 52-55 at home. McKim scored only 13 points and had 10 turnovers. McKim knew the team needed better performances than that from him. A game that could have put McKim and his teammates down instead made them work harder.
“No one got down on me,” McKim said. “They were giving me things to improve my game. As the season went, I think my teammates just had more confidence in me and were willing to give me the ball in times that we needed to score. I have confidence in them and the coaches too, so I think the amount of confidence they put in me helped me go out and do what I did this year.”
With McKim’s confidence back to where it needed to be, the team flourished. St. X was 9-4 going into a highly anticipated matchup against Trinity in the regular season. McKim delivered his first of many big games against big opponents, as he went on to score 31 points and lead the Tigers to a 55-48 victory over the Shamrocks.
That would become a recurring theme, as McKim continued to put up huge numbers against highly ranked teams. St. X defeated Trinity, Bullitt East, Ballard, Fern Creek and Male with McKim scoring 31, 26, 19, 36 and 34 respectively in those games. Something about those big moments made McKim play better.
“I knew I needed to be aggressive and attack the entire game because when I’m attacking, I’m either going to score for myself or put someone else in a position to score,” McKim said. “I think that happened a lot of games where I wasn’t necessarily seeking my shot, but I was making plays that were going to help me get my shot and guys did a great job finding me in spots.”
One of the biggest games of the year was when St. X took down #6 Bullitt East on Friday night of the LIT. McKim led the Tigers with 26 points, and it was the first time St. X had made it to the LIT semifinals since finishing as the runner-up to Male in 1967.
“The LIT was a lot of fun this year with us to not have gone that far in a while,” McKim said. “For us to beat Bullitt East, who was one of the top teams in the State on that Friday night, was just so much fun in the locker room after the game. That one really sticks out to me.”
McKim would go on to lead the Tigers to a 23-10 record on the year and a trip to the 7th Region Championship. In 2016, McKim averaged 27.7 points per game and scored 30 or more in the last four games of his high school career. He scored 788 total points this year along with 75 made threes. He also finished the season shooting 50% from the field, 41% from behind the three point line and 84% from the free throw line. McKim also joined the 1,000 point club with over 1,000 points scored during his career.
McKim has been a special player to watch for Tiger fans these past four years, but his teammates have loved playing with him even more.
“Playing with him was so amazing,” Connor Knight said. “He made the game so fun and exciting by the way he plays. I got kinda spoiled playing with him because he made the game so much easier for everyone else around him.”
“It was fun playing with him because of how unselfish he is,” Alex Hulse said. “It was great watching him put on a show.”
With the way McKim’s season ended, he gained a lot of attention in the closing weeks of the year. As Coach Just put in his article, McKim is a “silent assassin”. He doesn’t look for the spotlight, but he was thrown into it. He was never the vocal leader, but he was more of a lead by example kind of guy. He let his play on the court define who he was. His teammates understand that and appreciated how he carried himself.
“He never bragged about any of his huge games or any of the games where he just took over,” Billy Basham said. “He was always the first one to come up to anyone on the team and congratulate them on a great play they made or great game they had. He gave everything he had every day he stepped on the court.”
“Most people who don’t know Connor or just watch him play see him keep the same facial expression the whole time,” Knight said. “When he is playing, he does not change it. Whether he just hit the game winning shot or just got punched in the face. But once you really get to know him and get in his little circle, he is the biggest goofball you will ever talk to. To me, he is the funniest guy on the team by far. In the locker room we look at him, and he won’t even say anything and we just die laughing. Also he is one of the people who if you need anything or need someone to talk to, you go to him. He would do anything for anybody and that’s what makes him such a great person.”
McKim will soon be making a college decision. Right now, he has five offers: Kentucky Wesleyan, Springhill, University of Charleston, Ohio Valley and Rollins. He has not taken any visits yet and will most likely wait until after Spring Break before he does. He plans on letting things play out, as he wants to see what his options are before he makes a decision on where he wants to play ball next year.
McKim won’t be a Tiger next year, but he won’t forget his time at St. X anytime soon.
“The chemistry we had this year was just unbelievable,” McKim said. “I never want to lose that feeling, and I think we’ve all kind of taken it for granted just how together this team was. That’s something I hope to feel in college as well.”