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McNeil helps his new team overcome his old

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — For Sean McNeil, Tuesday night provided a glimpse of the path not taken.

The guard from Union, Kentucky, initially planned on attending Bellarmine University, but after just two days on the school’s Louisville campus, he packed up and went home.

“I have thought about what would have been different if I had stayed,” admitted McNeil, shortly after his new team (West Virginia) pushed past his old one (Bellarmine), 74-55, Tuesday night at the WVU Coliseum. “My mom and dad weren’t very pleased with me when I decided to leave within 48 hours. I joke with them now and tell them I knew it was going to play out like this.”

There have been plenty of good moments for McNeil in his three years as a Mountaineer. He’s currently averaging 12.0 points per game at a Power 5 program, helping WVU to a 6-1 start to the 2021-22 season.

Win number six on the campaign came against a team McNeil nearly played for several years ago.

“There were a few personal things going on, and I just felt like I wasn’t ready,” noted McNeil of his quick departure from Bellarmine. “I went home for a year, went to community college, though they didn’t have any sports, so I was just working out. Then my sophomore year technically, I (started playing at Sinclair Community College), and that got things going.”

After averaging a national junior college-best 29.7 points per game in his one season at Sinclair, which is in Dayton, Ohio, McNeil found his recruitment much different than it was during his high school days.

“When I was in high school, I felt counted out,” admitted McNeil, who picked WVU after interest from dozens of Division I programs while lighting up the scoreboard at Sinclair. “I had only two offers coming out of high school, both Division II. It wasn’t really about having anything to prove, but I had a chip on my shoulder, and I had that tonight.”

That chip has led the 6-foot-3 shooting guard to 594 career points and 111 3-point baskets in his 65 games as a Mountaineer.

His latest performance brought him 14 points in the victory over the school that nearly-was.

“This was more than just another game,” acknowledge McNeil. “I’ve played friends in the past, and I still keep in contact with a few of those guys (at BU). Scottie (Davenport) is a good coach, a good guy. I have a ton of respect for them, for sure, but I definitely marked this one on the calendar.

“I was definitely ready for this one and wanted this one bad. I wasn’t trying to force anything, though. I hit two (shots) early, and then tried to keep going from there.”

McNeil made six of his 14 field goal attempts against the Knights, including two of four from 3-point range. He also had two assists and one rebound.

“You always look back and think of where you came from, and you never try to forget where you came from,” stated McNeil

“They’ve done big things there, just transferring over to D-I last year,” he added of Bellarmine, which was a Division II program when he was there but now is in its second year as a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference. “Credit to them. Scottie has a great record there, and he definitely wins.”

McNeil had some tough moments in telling Davenport he wasn’t ready for college and that he was departing Bellarmine before he had even unpacked.

Now a Mountaineer, it has certainly worked out well for McNeil. That included Tuesday night in his new team’s 19-point win over his old one.