WVU’s Sean McNeil A Hidden Find In Quest For Perimeter Shooting
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When West Virginia’s men’s basketball team was planning for a season that began with great hope and ended in despair a year ago, Bob Huggins had a plan.
Whenever he needed instant offense from 3-point range he would make sure that he got triggermen James “Beetle” Bolden and Lamar West into the game. They were the long range answers to short term problems, or so the plan went.
But as the Irish poet Robert Burns put it:
“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft a-gley, An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain For promis’d joy.”
This plan was the modern day version of Burns’ Gaelic rambling, for Bolden was hurt for most of the year and West was anything but a reliable 3-point shooter. Both transferred after the season without any resistence being offered, and Huggins went out to patch the hole he had in his offense, targeting a junior college sharpshooter who made his presence felt on Friday night at Pitt. He’ll try to do the same at 7 p.m. Monday night when Northern Colorado comes to the Coliseum. His name is Sean McNeil and he brings with him a reputation for instant offense.
How did it work in the Pitt game? Let’s take a look at the first half:
11:17: With WVU trailing, 12-11, he make his first appearance of the night.
10:58: Nineteen seconds after entering the game he hits a three and WVU leads 16-12.
9:38: A minute and 20 seconds later he hits another three from some where near Allentown, Pa., or so it seemed, and the lead was 19-14.
8:02: McNeil exits the game with WVU ahead 23-16.
5:14: McNeil return with the lead down to four at 26-22.
4:16: Fifty-eight seconds later McNeil hits his third straight triple and the lead was back up to 7.
That’s what McNeil does. To be honest, it’s what he’s always done.
“To be honest, I’ve been a shooter since I was a little kid,” he said. “I say that because I was chubby and couldn’t do anything but shoot. Dad taught me how to shoot. Obviously shooters naturally shoot. That’s what do. Time after time, I started getting better at it.
McNeil’s tale is an intriguing one. He grew up in Union, Kentucky, which is close enough to be termed a Cincinnati suburb but probably not big enough. Until McNeil came along Union’s was most famous resident was Larry Luebbers, a Cincinnati Reds fan who, on his 217-acre farm, gathered up pieces of old Crosley Field and built his own recreation of the famous ball park out in the middle of nowhere.
Sort of reminds you of a movie, doesn’t it?
Well, Luebbers came across some tough times, sold his farm and the Crosley Field remake disappeared.
Now McNeil is rising in its place. He played at Cooper High on the Kentucky 2017 state runners-up, but wound up going to Division II Bellarmine University, at least for a few days when he realized there’s no place lke home.
So he went to a technical school without a basketball team, took a year off and worked on his game while trying to figure out what he wanted to do.
“My story is a little different,” he admitted. “That year I left Bellarmine I had the year to work on my game and focus on what I didn’t do well. I felt better going into junior college.”
Friends had told him about this junior college in Dayton named Sinclair and so he went there, leading the nation in junior college scoring with 29.7 points per game. This was too good to pass up for Huggins, whose Ohio connections are unmatched.
So, hopes were high as he enrolled, joined the team and went off to enjoy the Mountaineers’ working tour of Spain. But things happen to McNeil that don’t seem to happen to other people.
“I ate a piece of chicken,” he said. “I played that night, went back to the hotel, showered and went to bed. I got chills, maybe 30 minutes of sleep and was throwing up all night.”
That put him behind, to say nothing of the Jermaine Haley elbow he caught in the eye during practice that left him with black eye. He also suffered a concussion, so he was even further behind as the season approached.
McNeil is back full go now, though, and Huggins believes that he and Taz Sherman, another junior college transfer, give him the firepower off the bench he couldn’t find last year.