Pittsburgh native T.J. McConnell called his family to make sure they were ok. It was the first thing he thought to do after hearing about the tragedy that struck his hometown over the weekend.
Eleven people were killed and six others, including four law enforcement officers, were wounded when a gunman stormed the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood on Saturday and began shooting.
The Sixers guard said he had some friends from home visiting Philadelphia and they talked about the shooting that night, but noted that little could be said that felt productive.
"I really think this issue with gun violence is starting to get out of hand," McConnell said Monday night following a 113-92 home win over the Hawks. "All we can do is pray for those people until there is a change that's made."
McConnell said the shooting in Pittsburgh hit him hard because it was in his hometown. He spends a considerable amount of time in Pittsburgh in the offseason since it's where his family still lives, where his father still coaches basketball at Chartiers Valley Prep, and where he spent time at Duquesne before transferring to Arizona.
Despite the shock of the event, McConnell said he couldn't help but think that this wouldn't be the last time he would hear about this type of news.
"It's terrible to hear about and especially hits home because it's where I'm from," he said. "But it's happened all over the country and your heart sinks every time that you hear about something like this. It's frustrating. It's scary you know, people just minding their own business and this happens, it's sick."
This is not the first time that a mass shooting has touched close to home for a member of the Sixers. In October 2017, Amir Johnson spoke about the shooting last year in Las Vegas, where he lives during the offseason, and his mother was visiting on the day of the massacre at a country music festival on the strip.
Johnson said fear for his children was one of the first things that came to mind when asked about the shooting.
"I got two kids and it's almost kind of scary, them growing up in today's world," he said last year. "All you can do is keep them safe and keep your head on a swivel."
McConnell, the 6-foot-2, 26-year-old guard, said he isn't sure what the solution is to growing gun violence, but noted that it seems like nothing is happening and he thinks that's the worst kind of action.
"You keep hearing about the gun violence all over the place and it's like, what gives? Is someone going to step up and do something? Or, is this going to just keep happening? People are just minding their own business and someone can go on a rampage. It's scary," he said.