Monday, 29 November 2021 15:25

Paul McNeil: The Official Richmond County Male Athlete of the Week

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Sophomore shooting guard Paul McNeil has been named the Official Richmond County Male Athlete of the Week. Sophomore shooting guard Paul McNeil has been named the Official Richmond County Male Athlete of the Week. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

ROCKINGHAM — Paul McNeil, a sophomore basketball player, has been named the winter sports season’s first Official Richmond County Male Athlete of the Week presented by HWY 55.


The centerpiece for the No. 22 Raiders, McNeil led an upset over No. 12 Northern Guilford in last Tuesday’s season opener with a game-high in points.

McNeil’s efforts on offense and defense, including some clutch shots late, helped him earn his first career recognition as the Official Richmond County Male Athlete of the Week.

Athletic Profile

Age: 15

Birthday: April 19, 2006 

Year: Sophomore

Winter Sport: Basketball

Position: Shooting Guard

Height & Weight: 6-6, 165 pounds

Years on Varsity: 2 years

Experience: 8 years

DROPPING BUCKETS WITH PAUL McNEIL

In an East-West showdown between two ranked 4A teams, the Raiders held onto a late lead to defeat the Nighthawks 63-59. The game came down to the final minute and free throws from McNeil and teammate Jamarion Wall proved pivotal.

McNeil scored a game-high 21 points and added 8 rebounds, 5 steals, 3 assists and 1 block.

The Nighthawks’ defense kept McNeil contained early in the game, holding the Division I recruit to just three points in the first quarter. He hit a triple from the top of the arc with 4:07 left in the first to give the Raiders a 9-6 lead.

Finding his groove in the second, McNeil worked the floor all around the basket to add 8 points to bring his total to 11 points at the half. A baseline jumper from the right side put Richmond up 17-12.

The Raiders entered the bonus with 5:30 to play and McNeil hit two free throws, starting his 8-for-8 performance from the line. Two more drives in the final 3:35 from McNeil, coupled with a pair of triples from Wall and sophomore Javian Drake kept Richmond ahead 35-26 at the break.

Northern Guilford outscored Richmond 16-14 in the third, but four more points from McNeil kept the Raiders ahead. A floater and a jumper by McNeil on consecutive possessions kept the visitors in the lead.

McNeil started the fourth with two more free throws, but an 11-4 run by the Nighthawks tied the game at 53 points. Down the stretch, McNeil added two more shots from the charity stripe to break that tie and put the Raiders up for good with 2:27 to play.

With 1:01 left, McNeil splashed home two more foul shots to give the Raiders a 60-56 lead. Wall closed the door with a floater in transition and a free throw in the final 28 seconds.

Paul McNeil lands a deep two during the second half of Tuesday’s win over a tough Northern Guilford team. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

RAPID RESPONSES WITH PAUL McNEIL

ROSports: How exciting was last week’s win and how did the team manage to stay ahead late?

McNeil: “It was really exciting because we got a win against some good competition. (Northern Guilford) had a lot of energy and the crowd was intense. They also got back on defense pretty quick to make it tough. 

“Free throws were the difference maker. They’re always big in close games, and we had to dig deep as a team to come up with the win.”

ROSports: What do you think about when you’re taking shots under pressure like the free throws you hit against Northern Guilford?

McNeil: “There’s not a lot of pressure for me, I’ve been doing this for a long time. I just needed to hit my shots and know what to do in that moment. I really focus on the rim.

“When I hit the free throws, we knew it was in the bag. We’re a team with a lot of chemistry and when Jamarion hit his shots, that helped us get the win.”

ROSports: The Raiders have three big non-conference games this week. What do you guys hope to achieve and get better at?

McNeil: “Our goal is to beat all three teams and remain on top of our game. We want to contain them the best we can on the defensive end and turn that defense into offense.

“We want to get better mainly with defense and making extra passes, knowing what to do in certain moments and being able to hit big shots.”

ROSports: Name a couple of musical artists that you listen to before games to get hyped up.

McNeil: “Rod Wave is the best rapper in the world, and when I listen to him, he gets me hyped up. I also like Sam Smith, Dubb BankRoll or any rap music to get me ready for games.”

ROSports: If you could hang out with a couple of NBA players for a day, who would it be and what would you want to learn?

McNeil: “Chris Paul and David West. I’d want to know how they see the game from their perspective, and where they get their fire to get it all done and have fun.

“I’d want to work on my post game and fadeaways, and get better with my footwork, ball handling and basketball IQ.”

The Richmond Observer will publish two more Official Athletes of the Week next week.

Kyle Pillar

Nine-time N.C. Press Association award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

Submit local sports scores to: kpillar@richmondobserver.com

Twitter: ROSports_