Rio basketball adds Logan High's McNeal

Logan High School’s Anthony “Bird” McNeal poses
with family and coaches after signing to play college
basketball at the University of Rio Grande. He is
pictured with his mother, Dawn (seated, left) and
Logan head coach John Helber (seated, right) and, in
the back row, his sister, Allison; his father, Paul;
URG head coach Ken French; URG varsity assistant
and junior varsity coach Aaron Drakeford, and his
sister Jaclyn.

LOGAN, Ohio – University of Rio Grande men’s basketball head coach Ken French has announced the signing of Logan High School’s Anthony “Bird” McNeal for the 2013-14 season.

McNeal, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard, averaged 9.4 points per game for head coach John Helber’s Chieftains, who finished the 2012-13 season at 8-15 following a loss to Westerville North in Division I sectional tournament play.

“It’s a very special and emotional day for me,” McNeal said, shortly after his signing ceremony just outside of the LHS gymnasium. “I have a great sense of gratitude toward Rio Grande and coach French for giving me the chance to put on the red and white and become part of the program. I’m very happy and I’m excited about getting started.”

McNeal set a school single-game record with eight three-pointers and scored a career-high 24 points against Portsmouth and also had a streak in which he made at least one three in 13 straight games during his senior season.

McNeal, who appeared in 21 of his team’s 23 games, connected on 55 three-point goals – 10 shy of the school record – and shot 36 percent from beyond the three-point arc. He also averaged 2.8 rebounds and a team-high 2.3 assists per contest.

“I know going in that I’ll be playing mostly junior varsity the first year or two, but I fully expect to be a valuable contributor by the time I’m a junior,” said McNeal, who was an honorable mention All-Southeastern Ohio Athletic League and honorable mention All-SE District. “I’ve been going to some open gyms down there the past couple of months and I really clicked with some of the guys on the team. That helped make the decision a little easier.. Getting the chance to play college basketball is something I’ve thought about for a while now.”

French is happy to provide McNeal with that opportunity.

“Bird’s a great high-character kid,” said French. “He’s been around our program for a while now. He’s a former camper and I can promise you that there aren’t too many kids on our campus who have the high academic standing that he does. He’s a quality young man who personifies the term student-athlete.”

McNeal, who will double major in Business Management and Marketing, chose Rio Grande after also drawing interest from a handful of other schools, including Marietta College. He also considered giving up the game for the chance to attend Miami University and study business.

“He still has some work to do from the basketball end of it, but he realizes that and he knows what he needs to work on. I’ll be shocked if, by the time he’s a junior and senior – if not sooner – that he’s not a contributor for us,” French added. “He could’ve gone somewhere much bigger for academics only, but by coming to Rio Grande he gets the chance to continue playing and, at the same time, earn a meaningful degree. He’s also heavily-involved in his community outside of school and basketball. He’s the kind of guy who can change the attitude of a campus.”

McNeal is well-aware of the challenges that await by joining a program that currently is a member of, arguably, the top conference in all of NAIA Division I.

At the same time, though, he believes it’s a challenge that he and his future teammates will be up to facing.

“I think it’s going to be a big challenge. There are always four or five teams in the league who are very good every year, but going against those kind of teams are also what makes you better in the long run,” McNeal said. “Sooner or later, they’ll have a down year and we’ll have an up year and I can see us winning the league.”

When the well-spoken long-range bomber was asked exactly what he’ll bring to the program and what his ultimate goal at Rio Grande is, there was no hesitation in his answer.

“I think I’ll bring leadership to the program. I’ve been a leader all throughout my high school career and I think I can help the team in that aspect of the game,” said McNeal. “My biggest goal is to make Rio Grande – the school and the community – proud and to leave the program as a winner.”

McNeal is the son of Paul and Dawn McNeal of Logan.