Anyone plugged into the grassroots basketball scene should already be well aware of Paul McNeil’s sudden return to North Carolina and Richmond High School. The news sent shockwaves throughout the state, as last year’s Gatorade Player of the Year had been enjoying a pretty strong start to his season at Prolific Prep. Regardless, McNeil comes back to join a Raiders squad that is even better than before. The team had the opportunity to showcase their talents this past weekend at our Hoops and Dreams Showcase, and it made for a highly entertaining affair.
Although the team graduated a few seniors who received solid minutes, the addition of Jullien Cole pretty much absorbs any production lost from their departed pieces. He really showcased the full arsenal on Saturday, scoring from all levels, being a pest defensively, and leading by example on both ends of the floor. Cole rebounded the ball, forced turnovers, and set up others whenever possible. Add in his size and athleticism, and college coaches would be wise to start monitoring him.
That being said, the rest of this roster is also worthy of attention. Javian Drake is a tough, scrappy guard who knocks down shots at a high clip, Dakota Chavis is a workhorse who fills in the gaps on both ends, and Jamarion Wall is a smart, well-rounded piece with the ability to expand his production as needed. Furthermore, guys like Zion Baldwin and Dylan Lampley both made a consistent impact through their hustle and willingness to do the dirty work.
The aforementioned six were already poised to be a difficult matchup for the majority of opponents, so the addition of McNeil just makes them that much scarier. Everyone knows the kid is talented, but it’s his approach that separates him from other superstar prospects. McNeil clearly understands how to be an unselfish focal point who can fill it up while still getting others involved and valuing the best available shot on a given possession. Looking to send constant double-teams? He doesn’t care and absolutely will not force the issue, rather just make the appropriate pass to an open teammate. It’s rare to see this level of unselfishness from a non-point guard, so we should appreciate it while we can. In the end, expect this Richmond team to contend for a title over the coming months.