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CR North's Connor Rushing sees hard work extend his hoops career

06/14/2021, 9:30am EDT
By Kayla Yoegel

CR North's Connor Rushing (above, as a junior) is headed to Muhlenberg College in the fall. (Photo courtesy CR North)

Kayla Yoegel (@kyoegel)

Council Rock North senior Connor Rushing took advantage of the March 2020 COVID shutdown to better himself in his passion for basketball. As his love for the game was growing, he worked throughout the pandemic to set himself up for a successful senior season. 

His focus was not only on the skills part of the game, but he also worked to get his body ahead physically as well. Rushing often found himself hustling home from the gym or an AAU practice, to hopping on a Zoom workout with his high school teammates and coaching staff. 

Combining his excitement and willingness to become a better player, with the time he spent on the court and in the weightroom, Rushing says that’s what prepared him for his senior season. 

“I did a lot of strength training and I was just trying to get my weight up more because I felt like I was a little weak in my junior season,” Rushing said. “And I was working on my basketball skills a little bit more than I was before and I think it all just came together as the senior season came.”

Before Rushing’s successful senior season, during his junior year, he was a “swing” player, playing on both the JV and varsity squads, and it was not until the end of the season in which Rushing saw some significant varsity action.

It only took Rushing the final eight varsity games of his junior season and his improvement was evident to Council Rock North head coach Jesse Krasna. After getting a feel for the varsity game, and capitalizing on those minutes, it turned out to be extremely beneficial for the end of Rushing’s days playing on both rosters.  

“When he got his opportunity as a junior, with those last eight games, he really took advantage of it and he had a great finish to his junior year,” Krasna said.

After the strong conclusion to Rushing’s junior year and with the growing excitement for his final season of high school basketball, Krasna was eager to get to work in the off-season with Rushing, and then the pandemic hit. However, much like those late eight varsity games, Krasna was impressed with Rushing’s transformation during the shutdown from his junior to senior year. 

“That was really just his hard work that he transformed his body and he transformed his game at the end of his 11th-grade year to his 12th-grade year,” Krasna said. He fell in love with the process of getting better and that’s kind of what led to his transformation and his game taking off.”

In the team’s abbreviated 2021 schedule, the group finished 8-7 overall and 7-3 in the Suburban One League-Patriot division. Rushing finished the year averaging 12.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG, and shot 44% from the floor, which helped him earn a spot on the First Team All-Patriot Suburban One League and Third Team All-Intelligencer/Courier Times teams. 

Come fall, Rushing will be heading to Allentown to be a student-athlete at Muhlenberg College. Yet, at the beginning of his senior year, Rushing was not sure if he would be playing college basketball.

“I wasn’t even sure at the start of my senior year that I was gonna play college basketball. I went to some recruiting camps and I was doing pretty well but I wasn’t really talking to many colleges until mid-way through my season and then I started talking to colleges after having a couple of good games,” Rushing said. “Colleges would text me and then towards the end of the season I’d get these accolades and that’s when Muhlenberg texted me and reached out to me and that’s where it kind of ended up from there.”

Rushing will be joining a Muhlenberg program that competes in the Centennial Conference and is led by head coach Kevin Hopkins. In his first three seasons as head coach, Hopkins has led his group through significant strides in a solid conference. 

The Mules last competed in the 2019-20 season, in which they finished 19-8 overall and 11-7 in the Centennial. During that same season, they qualified for the conference playoffs and lost in the semi-finals to the nationally-recognized and No. 1 ranked team in Division III, Swarthmore, by a mere margin of three points. 

Only a few months ago, Rushing was not certain if he would have the opportunity to continue playing basketball post-high school, and now will head to a reputable school with high academics and athletics, but what sold Rushing on the Lehigh Valley school was his on-campus visit.

“I think all-around they were just the school I wanted to go to and they had good academics, good basketball, good environment,” Rushing said. “I really liked going to Muhlenberg on my campus visit. 

“I heard it was a good conference as well,” he said. “I was looking for good competition as well, I’m glad we’re in a good conference, it’s always a good thing.”

For Rushing, who was playing JV basketball not even two years ago, he will be joining a program that saw improvement in the win column and competed in post-season play for the first time in six seasons during the ‘19-’20 year of competition. While his recruitment was late and his high school basketball journey a bit unorthodox, he is glad he was able to figure it out and is willing to do whatever the Muhlenberg coaching staff throws at him come fall 2021. 

“I can just come in and play basketball and do whatever the coaches really need me to do. I work hard, I try hard and not only that but I feel like I can be a good student as well, in college, so I’m excited to get started.”

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