Home Local Sports ‘Living in the moment’: McNeil Jr. recognized for 1,000th career point

‘Living in the moment’: McNeil Jr. recognized for 1,000th career point

Paul McNeil Jr. (center) holds his celebratory 1000th career point basketball, surrounded by his teammates on Friday. (Kyle Pillar, sports editor)

ROCKINGHAM — It’s been a busy month and a half for Paul McNeil Jr., which culminated in an emotional celebration on Friday.

In front of thousands of fans inside Raider Gymnasium, McNeil Jr. was recognized for scoring his 1,000th career point. 

Greeting him at half court were a number of Richmond’s coaches, including head coach Donald Pettigrew and girls’ assistant Taneika Reader, who has coached McNeil Jr. since he first started organized basketball in fourth grade.

A special basketball, decorated with McNeil Jr.’s name, the date of his accomplishment and signed by teammates and coaches, was presented to him.

To reach the milestone, McNeil Jr. scored a transition layup, assisted by childhood friend and teammate Javian Drake, early in the third quarter of a 98-53 win over Southern Lee High School on Dec. 13.

The accomplishment came in McNeil Jr.’s fifth game back with Richmond since transferring after a four-month stint with Prolific Prep in Napa Valley, Calif.

Leading up to the Southern Lee game, McNeil Jr. said senior teammate Dakota Chavis pointed out that he was just 25 points away from the 1,000-point mark.

“I was aware I was getting close, but Dakota looked it up and I said to myself that I wanted to go get it that night,” McNeil Jr. recalled. “I don’t think about my points or my stats, I just try to focus on helping the team win.

“It feels good, it’s a great accomplishment, but I want to keep working. That was just a part of my journey.”

Not to disappoint a packed house, McNeil Jr. tied his career-high of 41 points in Friday’s 70-19 victory over Union Pines High School. He connected on 16-of-22 from the field and drained seven three-pointers.

“It was really special and I was just living in the moment,” McNeil Jr. smiled of the pre-game celebration. “I only get one ride through high school and this makes it better.

“Seeing all the fans, the tears and smiles, it was real love. It felt so right and it was the best night I’ve had at Richmond. There was so much positive energy and I’m so thankful.”

Since his return to his hometown around Thanksgiving, McNeil Jr. said things are going well on the court and in the classroom. 


He called transferring to Prolific Prep in July a “business decision,” a big call for a 16-year-old, but said coming back to Richmond County was the best decision for him.

“Being back home, this is where I’m best,” McNeil Jr. explained. “I picked up right where I left off. California wasn’t the best situation for me, but I went out there to see what the experience was like.

“Even though I’m thankful for the opportunity, I felt badly for leaving my boys and my team,” he continued. “In my heart, I wanted to come back to my team, my coaches, my community and the kids coming up.

“I wanted to show them that you don’t have to leave to get out. My heart is here and I was missing a piece of it in California. Sometimes in life you have to leave to learn new things, and I felt like I did that, especially mentally, when I was at Prolific Prep.”

A five-star recruit, McNeil Jr. is ranked as the No. 10 player of the class of 2024 in the nation in ESPN’s basketball recruiting database.

He was named the North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year following his sophomore season and currently has 18 college offers. 

McNeil Jr. was also selected to his second All-Sandhills Athletic Conference team and was named the SAC’s Player of the Year in 2021-22. He was tabbed the NCCA’s District 4 Player of the Year and named All-State.

Through 49 career games with the Raiders, McNeil Jr. has scored 1,112 points (22.7 points per game) and leads the 4A East in scoring this season with 23.4 points per contest.

An “unselfish player,” according to Pettigrew, McNeil Jr. has every ambition to help his teammates and the Richmond basketball program win its first state championship.

Knowing the work isn’t finished, the Raiders will continue their march this season one game at a time.

“My surroundings here at home motivate me more to be a better player and person,” McNeil Jr. closed. 

“We’re going to keep working, work toward winning the conference and try to get the top seed in the East. Our ultimate goal is to focus on winning a state championship.”

Previous articleCOMMITTED: Norton to join ‘No. 1 target’ Elon
Next articleOBITUARY: Gloria Dean Cummings
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.