Former Irish hooper Pat Connaughton hopes to surprise basketball world in Slam Dunk Contest

CHICAGO - In the history of the Notre Dame basketball program, only two Domers have competed in the Slam Dunk Contest: Orlando Woolridge in the 1980s, and now, Pat Connaughton. But no member of the Fighting Irish has ever won the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest, and Connaughton hopes to change that Saturday night in Chicago.

It’s a night Connaughton has been dreaming of for awhile.

“I think the slam dunk contest is something to have fun with it," Connaughton said. "It’s a way for me to show off my athleticism.”

Connaughton wants to show the basketball world what it’s like to be Irish.

"It’s incredible to represent the university and the Milwaukee Bucks at the weekend," Connaughton said. "It’s one of the reasons I want to make sure as much fun I am having with it, still take it seriously. I’m the type of guy when I get involved in something, I don’t get involved in it because I don’t put my best foot forward to try and win it."

His teammate, and last years MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo certainly believes Connaughton will come out on top.

"Pat is going to kill it," Antetokounmpo said. "I trust him. We will be out there supporting and he’s going to get the dub.”

Connaughton’s old head coach Mike Brey is pumped to see him competing in All-Star Saturday night, and he also has big expectations.

“It’s going to be dramatic and it’s going to be a show," Brey said. "I’m not sure how good the dunks will be. We all know the man can get up. But what does he do with the whole choreography. I know my man has something up his sleeve.”

Connaughton wouldn’t go into detail on what tricks were up his sleeve but he does expect to put on a pretty good show.

“I’d say one that not to many people expect from me," Connaughton said. "I’ll try play into being an underdog in it.”

It’s a role he’s been quite good at his entire life, and now, Connaughton can show the world what he’s made of on a huge stage.

“I think there’s a lot of people out there wondering why I am in the dunk contest," Connaughton said. "Some people would take that as a negative. I take it as a positive. It means they’ll be that much more impressed when they see what they have in store tonight.”

Now, there have been rumors that Connaughton will relive his baseball playing days at Notre Dame with former NL MVP Christian Yelich at tonight’s Slam Dunk Contest. All Connaughton said is he happened to run into Yelich on Friday night.

Something to certainly keep an eye on tonight. The action starts at 8 PM on TNT.