Saturday, February 28, 2015

Uno En Uno With: Conor McGuiness, Clarkstown South

ZS: How can you put into the words the euphoria of nailing a game-winner at the County Center?  Coming from a basketball family, you've surely been prepared for moments like this. How'd it happen?

CM: It was the best feeling I've had in my life. It was awesome. I was able to create a lot in the first half and then Arlington box-and-oned me pretty much the rest of the second half.

 I knew I was going to be able to create (space) a little bit. I was just thankful I was able to hit the shot and be able to give us the position to play in the championship.

My whole entire life I've thought about hitting game-winners and buzzer-beaters to be honest. You imagine the craziest things when you're shooting around in the backyard as a kid. There is the 5-4-3-2-1 countdown. There's the "and the crowd goes wild!" 

It goes through every kid's head. For it to happen on one of the biggest stages in Section 1 in the County Center...I really don't have any words.

ZS: What's been key to this team's County Center run and thriving the way you have? What's been the difference since the Nyack loss?

CM: Us playing together as a team has really been the difference. It's been a real team effort from that game. We weren't playing cohesively (in the Nyack loss). We weren't playing as a team. We were playing more individually and that is not our identity. We've really hit a big stride right now-- beating Arlington, Fox Lane, and New Rochelle. We just hope it carries into tomorrow (against Mount Vernon).

ZS: The County Center has doubled as a Memorial Park alumni game during championship week. What's it like to see the Rockland County guys from your childhood on this stage, each a centerpiece?

CM: It's a great feeling. It's great to see those guys who I grew up playing with excel with their potential. They've all exceeded expectations. They are now amongst Section 1's elite. They've all worked their butts off for this opportunity. The most gratifying part is that we've all exceeded our potential this year to get to where we are now, playing at the County Center. .

ZS: You and Luke have been playing with/against each other forever...

LM:  We won our fifth grade CYO county championship. We actually lost to Matt Ryan's team (Ann Seton in Shrub Oak) in the state championship.

Luke and I started playing with the third grade CYO team when we were in first grade, we played up early. . He was always the tallest kid. I was always the smallest kid.

ZS: Becoming a scorer and the focal point of defenses throughout the Section, how have you defied lack of height?

CM: I just know I have to be mentally tougher and physically tougher than everyone I've played against.

I take it upon myself to be the toughest kid I can be and the toughest kid on the court. I just try to work my butt off. Not just working on the floor but working in the off-season, even when it's just myself in the gym or in the weight room.

ZS: How have you tuned up in the off-season and readied yourself for a new leadership this season?

CM: I've been fortunate enough to work out with (New City Native and Don Bosco graduate) Paul Jorgenson. He's now a freshman point guard at George Washington. Whenever he's home, every single day I'm working out with him. My Dad, (Joe McGuinness), he's the AD at Albertus Magnus. I pretty much have the key to the gym.

Paul is on another level. Whenever he's doing a drill or going at me one-on-one, I try to emulate myself to be like him.

When we're playing one-on-one, he always pushes me. He takes it to me. He wants me to get better, he's looking out for me, so he knows taking it easy on me simply won't work. It gets me ready because I know what to expect against guys as talented as he is. I know some of the things I can do on Paul from playing against him. I try to pick up on areas where he's not as strong defensively, and really attack that.

ZS: What's the focus heading into tomorrow's championship against (reigning champion) Mount Vernon?

CM: We're going to have to execute our stuff. More importantly, though, we're going have to be really tough. We know how tough and strong those kids are. We're going to have to box out, get rebounds, get every 50-50 ball. We know how important those things are against this team and in a game of this magnitude.

ZS: How have you adapted to a leadership role this season?

CM: I know as a senior and a three-year starting point guard, not only me but all the seniors, we're going to have to step up. We start four seniors and one junior, so we're an experienced team. We've all been through this before, so it makes it that much easier for me and for the rest us.

ZS: What's the support system been like with not only your father but also your brother (former Magnus star) Pat McGuiness?

CM: My brother was the hardest working kid I've ever seen. He was in the gym before school. He was in the gym after school. He's been someone I've looked up to my whole life. My Dad played for Coach K at West Point for two years, then he went to Manhattan. He coached at Wagner, Loyola-Chicago, Mount St. Mary's (N.Y.) where he was the head coach. So, his knowledge of the game is endless. He knows so much and he's taught me at every level, coaching me during the CYO days.

My brother stayed on me. Every single day, I was in the gym with him working my butt off. Even if I was thinking of taking a day off, there was no way he was going to let me.

He'd be making fun of me, calling me "soft." He's changed my mindset so much about how hard you have to work in order to be successful.

ZS: Must have been a bit of a different feeling when Clarkstown South played against Albertus...

CM: (laughs) I guarded him for the first half. I tried not talking to him at all the day before the game. I didn't want to let him in on any of our game plans.