McNeal Has Early Offers

Hillcrest High in Illinois is home to one of the hardest playing young men in the Class of 2005. Jerel McNeal, a 6-3 small forward, is all about ball.

As much as anyone we've seen in the Class of 2005, Country Club Hills (IL) Hillcrest junior small forward Jerel McNeal loves to play. His traveling team is a bunch of hard playing kids, led by McNeal.

As a prospect, McNeal is defined not by who he is but how hard he plays. McNeal values every opportunity he gets to lace them up and it shows. He's an extremely passionate player. At 6-3, he doesn't have a super jump shot or a ton of range.

Some guys have skill, some have heart. McNeal received a double-dose of the latter. He understands what it takes for him to be successful. He also knows that there's a place in college basketball where he can be successful.

"For me, right now, the best way to decide [on college] is just not to rule anybody out and try to find the school that best fits me," McNeal said. "I don't want to have to wait 2-3 years to break the lineup and start play. Some high-majors might be prestigious but the programs are on a downside and you can come in and get playing time right away. It's just what fits you.

"I think there's a wide variety of things I can do. I feel I'm good enough to play on the high-major level but if I have to go to a mid-major school to get playing time my freshman year then that's what I have to do."

Illinois State and Northern Illinois are on him hard. Marquette is chasing him with some intensity too. McNeal said that Michigan State and Illinois are starting to send a lot of information as well. Both saw him play last weekend in Houston as did Dayton head coach Brian Gregory and ISU's Porter Moser.

Marquette, Illinois State, Northern Illinois, Baylor and Dayton have offered.

McNeal's Mean Streets team doesn't take a back seat to anyone. Last weekend, they tangled with some of the biggest name programs on the traveling team circuit before bowing out to Memphis in the quarters. They're an undersized but prideful bunch.

"Part of it is where we are from. In Chicago, you've got to play as hard as you can. A lot of times it's not about talent but its how hard you play. A lot of teams came out and looked at us as an undersized team and they thought it was going to be a walk through. We all play so hard and do little things so well."

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