Home Local Sports Five-star recruit McNeil Jr. heading to California’s Prolific Prep

Five-star recruit McNeil Jr. heading to California’s Prolific Prep

Paul McNeil Jr., shown during a playoff game last season, will play his junior season at Prolific Prep in Napa, Calif. (Kyle Pillar, sports editor)

ROCKINGHAM — Paul McNeil Jr. has caught the eye of college basketball programs all across the country since his freshman year, and now he’s making a move to maximize those opportunities.

Over the past two years, McNeil has wowed fans with his talents on the hardwood as a shooting guard for Richmond Senior High School.

Helping lead the Raiders to their best playoff run in over two decades in 2021-22, McNeil announced last week that he would be playing his junior season at Prolific Prep in Napa, Calif.

Rated as the No. 14 player in the class of 2024 on ESPN’s recruiting database, McNeil is a five-star recruit with a dozen offers, most from powerhouse Division I programs.

Currently, McNeil has received offers from Clemson, Florida State, Indiana, LSU, Missouri, Norfolk State, N.C. State, St. Johns, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Western Carolina and Shaw (Division II).

He’s also received interest from BYU, Georgetown, Kansas, Ohio State, UCLA, UNC and Wake Forest.

McNeil, who stands at 6-6 and has made an impact with the Raiders with his ability to produce all over the floor, said Prolific Prep reached out to him earlier this summer about joining its program.

“It was a hard decision to make, especially with leaving my home, family and friends,” McNeil said. “But this was an opportunity that was given to me that will allow me an environment to get better and take more reps.

“I’m excited and think it will help prepare me for college,” he added. “This is going to allow me to help my family and improve myself as a basketball player and a person.”

Prolific Prep started in 2014 and was founded by Phillipe Doherty and Jeremy Russotti. 

Currently coached by Ryan Bernardi, Prolific Prep “provides a unique opportunity for serious student-athletes to be immersed in an environment of unmatched basketball training (game-style practice, basketball development, and athletic training),” according to its website.

It continues by saying the academy “provides a college-preparatory education on and off the basketball court while transforming the athlete in reaching, as well as exceeding, his fullest potential” and states the goal is to “recruit elite high school basketball players who are also great students and offer them an environment whereby academic standards are not sacrificed in the name of athletic excellence.”

Known for its recruitment of some of the nation’s top college basketball prospects, Prolific Prep plays in tournaments all over the country and is featured on nationally televised games. The program played in the GEICO nationals in 2021.

“Playing there will give me a lot of exposure and will help get me to the next level,” McNeil shared. “There will be a lot of eyes on me and Prolific Prep is a big name itself, which will also help.

“I want to get better at all of my skills, and playing against other talented players will make me a better all-around basketball player. I want to get better at being shot-ready, going to my left and finishing around the basket.”


As a sophomore with the Raiders last season, McNeil was named to his second All-Sandhills Athletic Conference team and was selected the SAC’s player of the year. 

He was also tabbed the NCCA’s District 4 player of the year, named All-State and was recognized on the national level as North Carolina’s Gatorade Player of the Year, the first boys’ basketball player chosen in Richmond’s history.

McNeil guided the Raiders to a 26-2 overall record in 2021-22 and the team’s first conference championship in five years. Richmond made it to the fourth round of the state playoffs, its farthest run since 1997.

In his second varsity season, McNeil averaged 24.5 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.7 steals per game.

“Paul made the gym electric and was so big for us the past two years,” Richmond head coach Donald Pettigrew said. “He’s a great kid, a student of the game and the future is bright. 

“We’re all happy for him, and I told him to be who he is and do what he does, and he’ll be ready to play at the next level in no time.”

Taneika Reader, who founded the local travel basketball organization the Richmond Jammers, has coached McNeil since he started his playing career in fourth grade. She believes McNeil playing for a smaller, grassroots team put him on a larger stage to get picked up by other teams.

“I think Paul joining Prolific Prep will be a great experience,” Reader said. “It will give him an opportunity to strengthen and elevate his basketball skills by playing and training with all types of different players from various states with his talent level.

“As far as exposure, I think he had that already going in his favor, but it can only get better. I’m really going to miss his physical presence here, but I’m super proud of him and looking forward to where this opportunity leads him. Paul will always be a Jammer for life.”

Although he’ll be leaving the green and gold behind and playing nearly 2,500 miles from his hometown, McNeil isn’t quick to forget his Richmond teammates and the lessons he learned while with the Raiders.

“Richmond prepared me by getting me to another level,” McNeil explained. “I improved so much the last two years, and Richmond taught me what I needed to know for what’s next.

“Prolific Prep will teach me what I need to know for college,” he closed. “I saw a lot of playing time at Richmond and I’m very thankful. I’m going to miss playing for the Raiders and (Pettigrew) was one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. He taught me never to give up.”

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Kyle Pillar is a 16-time North Carolina Press Association award-winning sports editor with The Richmond Observer. Follow the sports department on Twitter @ROSports_ for the best in-depth coverage of Richmond County sports.