MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — Four or five years in a life is not really a very long time, although when you are 22 or 23, as West Virginia guard Sean McNeil is, it can seem like an eternity ago.
Certainly, he was a different person then, graduating from Cooper High School in Union, Kentucky, a local basketball celebrity who led his school to a runner-up finish in the state high school tournament but who could not impress anyone in Division I.
His only two offers were from D-2 schools, one of which was Bellarmine, which was where he decided to go but where he never played.
This was only part of a story that reached an emotional outcome on Tuesday night when the Knights, now a D-1 program, came to the Coliseum, which put McNeil on the court with them for the first time, setting up a moment when he would score the Mountaineers' first four points in in a 74-55 victory.
He would finish with 14 and Taz Sherman had 18 in leading the Mountaineers to their sixth victory in seven games this season.
"This was definitely more than just another game to me," McNeil admitted in its aftermath.
And that, of course, brings us to the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey once would say.
See. McNeil spent exactly 48 hours as a Bellarmine student.
At 17 or 18, you sometimes are very confused as you leave home and head off into the semi-real world of college.
"There were a lot of personal problems," McNeil admitted, not wanted to get any more specific.
Certainly, the fact he was passed over as a top-line college basketball player didn't help the situation and you could tell from the way he spoke about his meeting with coach Scotty Davenport to tell him he was leaving that there was a disagreement between the two.
""He was not happy with me when he learned I was leaving as any coach would be," McNeil said. "He had spent a lot of time recruiting me."
But McNeil's career at Bellarmine was that short, and Davenport wasn't the only one upset.
"Mom and Dad were not pleased I left after 48 hours," he admitted.
McNeil took a year off, returned to basketball at the community college level in Dayton, Ohio, at Sinclair, became one of the nation's top scorers and put together a big-time JUCO career, and having done it in Ohio was something that Bob Huggins couldn't miss with his connections there.
Soon his phone started ringing and so he came and looked at McNeil and brought him to Morgantown, where he has beocme one of the school's most popular players with his long-ranging bombs from far outside.
But always there was something hanging over his head and that was this Bellarmine thing. What would his life had been like had he stayed.
He needed some kind of final act and that would be on this night when Davenport was on the other bench and he got to face the Knights.
"I was definitely ready for this," he said. "I wanted it bad."
He came in amped up but not wanting to force things, so he played within himself, didn't go out trying to score 40 points.
"I thought he was good," Huggins said. "I didn't think he forced many things. He took pretty good shots and obviously made them. Defensively, he was better. That's what we are trying to do here. We are continuing to try to get better."
While it was a huge game for McNeil, the other Mountaineers sort of sleepwalked through the first half, going off at intermission with just a 37-30 lead.
In the second half, with improved ball movement, with Jalen Bridges contributing nine rebounds and eight points, with big men Pauly Paulicap and Dimon Carrigan dominating inside, WVU wore Bellarmine down and one going asway.
The Mountaineers return to action at 4 p.m. on Saturday when Radford comes to town with its new head coach, former WVU guard Darris Nichols.