Those who have watched Connor Barrett play basketball shouldn’t be surprised by how he’s performed in his first varsity season.

The junior guard from Chicago is second on the team in scoring and doing it with his perimeter shooting. In Friday’s 63-47 win at home over De La Salle in the Catholic Blue, the 6-foot-3 Barrett (pictured above) went 2-for-5 from the 3-point line and scored 11 points.

But Barrett hasn’t been in the starting lineup since Loyola’s Nov. 20 opener against Von Steuben because of his offense.

“Scoring points means nothing if you don’t play defense,” he said.

Loyola head coach Tom Livatino further explained his program’s philosophy.

“We don’t sacrifice our culture for anybody’s offensive ability,” he said. “We are a hard-working team that emphasizes defense over everything else. We are consistently good because we guard people. That’s something we can control. Defense is about heart and desire and your work ethic.”

When Livatino watched Barrett play on the sophomore team last season, he said he didn’t see someone who prioritized defense. But Barrett has transformed himself into a complete player.

“He bought in,” Livatino said. “It’s a cool thing to watch happen. He’s a Rambler basketball player now.”

Barrett said he entered the offseason with his eyes wide open, understanding what he needed to improve upon to make an impression on Livatino.

“I knew it would be tough,” Barrett said. “I knew you had to play defense and play with effort all of the time. I like that [Livatino] is demanding. He’s hard on you, but it’s all to make you a better player. He makes you mentally tougher, teaches you to be a man.”

A Lincoln Park resident, Barrett graduated from Frances Xavier Warde. While most of his classmates chose St. Ignatius, Barrett enrolled at Loyola. On Jan. 19 at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, he contributed to the Ramblers’ 37-36 win over the Wolfpack in his first Jesuit Cup. Barrett even corralled the rebound as the buzzer sounded and sent the ball flying into the air.

“That was so awesome,” he said. “I was so happy. The only thing I worried about was the ball hitting the Jumbotron.”

Since he started playing basketball, Barrett said shooting has been his strength. It’s a skill his father, Bob Barrett, helped hone. To better prepare himself for the varsity game, Connor tweaked his mechanics before his junior season.

“My release is quicker, and I don’t have any wasted movements,” he said. “It was an adjustment, but one that was worthwhile.”

Livatino remarked that Barrett is one of the best shooters he’s coached in his nine seasons at Loyola. In the second game of the season, Barrett went 7-for-13 from 3-point range, and he’s had six games with at least four 3s, converting 50 percent or better in five of them.

Furthermore, Livatino said he believes Barrett will become an all-around offensive threat and possibly a Division I recruit. Barrett has scored 20 or more points three times this season.

“He’s talented, and we are only seeing the beginning of what he can do,” Livatino said. “Once he develops his body more and adds more athleticism, he’s going to be a high-level player.”

Added Barrett: “Shooting is my bread and butter, but I continue to work on driving to the basket and finishing with contact. I think my defense continues to improve. My goal is to not let my player get the ball or get a shot. I want to be a multi-dimensional player.”

Photo credit: Melissa Krein/Loyola