On Thursday, Cal men’s basketball landed a commitment from 2017 3-star point guard Darius McNeill out of Westfield High School in Houston, TX. McNeill caught up with GoldenBearReport.com to chat about his decision and what he hopes he’ll bring to the Cal program.
Something that appears to be a major factor in McNeill’s recruitment to Cal is the relationship he has with assistant coach Chris Walker. McNeill played under Walker in AAU along with 2018 Cal commit Jacobi Gordon. While the relationship with Walker was definitely a factor, McNeill made it clear that there were other factors at play.
“It was big, but I didn’t think about that part too much,” McNeill said of his relationship with Walker. “I felt comfortable with Coach Jones telling me how he was going to play me. We’ll be pressing and playing at a fast pace. He likes to press. We’re gonna be pressing a lot this year, we’ll be playing a 2/3 zone. Offensively we’ll be playing up and down, fast paced.”
The system that Jones plans to implement certainly appears to suit McNeill’s strengths. McNeill loves to push the ball in transition, make plays, and really get after it on the defensive end of the floor. In order to get the most out of this system, McNeill wants to improve his mentality and stay in attack mode.
“Scoring in transition and my pull up,” McNeill said of his strengths. “Getting others involved and playing defense. That’s what I take pride in is playing defense. I feel comfortable guarding 1s and 2s. Just really staying in attack mode. Sometimes I’m laid back at times. I want to improve my decision making, too.”
— DeMarcus Peterson (@Coach_Peterson) June 23, 2017
While the presence of Walker added a certain layer of comfort, McNeill wanted to be sure that Wyking Jones was going to put him in the best possible situation to be successful. Once he saw how Jones wanted to use him, committing to Cal became a very easy decision. Especially when he factored in the value of a Cal degree.
“It’s big because I can be good on and off the court,” McNeill said of a Cal education. “Cal is a high academic school and whatever I choose to get a degree in I can be set for life.”
In addition to playing in a system he likes and attending a school with top-flight academics, McNeill gets a chance to play with a close friend of his in Jacobi Gordon. They played AAU ball for two years and during that time developed a really strong relationship.
“We’re real tight,” McNeill said. “We’ve been playing together for two years on the AAU circuit. We text each other and he’s like family. We just got done working out together.”
McNeill is walking into a great situation at Cal, with immediate playing time, a system that fits his talents, and a level of familiarity with the coaching staff, which all combine to a great late addition for the Bears.