By Madisen Carter
The process of learning the sport of basketball is what made Player Development Intern, Iniko McNeil, fall in love with the game. From taking the ball to the hoop, getting it through the net, to seeing how many shots he could get up, McNeil enjoyed seeing the work he put into the game come to life and seeing the results.
As a player development intern, McNeil said his favorite thing about being a part of the Unlimited Potential Basketball team has been watching the younger generation go through that same experience and process that he went through as a kid. McNeil has been a part of the UPB team since May and has made a difference in many young athlete’s basketball journeys, and he has enjoyed building strong relationships with his clients.
“[I have enjoyed seeing the athlete’s progress] unfold right in front of me. It was just refreshing because I feel like the level of basketball I’m at now, everyone kind of can shoot [and] everyone can dribble. You don't get to appreciate [and see someone] going from not being able to do something to actually doing it,” McNeil said.
McNeil played all four years of high school basketball at Bishop O’Dowd before he graduated in 2019, and is now heading into his second year of playing basketball at Merritt College in Oakland, California. In his first season with Meritt, McNeil played in 24 games and averaged 7.3 points, 2.4 rebounds and 3 assists per game. He and the team have been practicing four days a week to prepare for the upcoming season and he is ready to get the season officially stared as he will be having a bigger responsibility in scoring.
“I'm really excited about the team we have [this season] and my personal growth because I feel like this is the first real offseason that I've had to work on my craft in honestly, maybe three to four years because I've always been dealing with injuries or [other] knicks and knacks,” McNeil said. “So that's really been the most important thing is just staying in the gym daily and taking my recovery seriously.”
Along with rehabbing his injuries and practicing with his team, McNeil said that working at UPB has also helped prepare him for the season. He has been able to listen to the other coaches on the UPB team and how they instruct their athletes along with learning from the athletes McNeil has trained himself. By working with athletes on their jump shot and other techniques, he has been able to apply those teachings to his own jump shot to better his game.
After his time at Merritt College, McNeil hopes to receive and accept an offer from a school he genuinely likes to continue his basketball career. After that, he plans to continue keeping the game in his life as long as possible by going into a career that keeps the game close to him.
“My first thing, first and foremost, I want to play as long as I can. As long as the ball keeps bouncing to me, I want to use that to my advantage and just make as many stops and pick up as much knowledge because I do feel like long term with the game, I want to either be a player development coach at the highest level or start to get into the coaching ranks,” McNeil said.
As he continues his basketball journey, McNeil knows he will always keep the game close not only because of the game itself, but because of what the game teaches him throughout life.
“I think that you can learn a lot of life lessons through basketball, and I think you can learn a lot about who you are as a person through basketball and through the work of basketball… What people should be trying to get out of [basketball] is how to actually develop a work ethic, how to be a part of a team, and how to interact with people who may disagree with you or are very different [from you.] I just feel that there are fundamental things [that can] develop [including] your personal character,” McNeil said.
McNeil’s last day at UPB is this Sunday, and we have appreciated all that he has done with the team and for his clients. We wish him the best of luck in his upcoming season and in the rest of his basketball career!
Smith has been with UPB for a few weeks now and is helping with group training and private training. He said he has enjoyed seeing the variety of different athletes that come into the gym from division I college basketball players all the way down to three year olds. He said group training has been his favorite part so far, being able to interact with a lot of different athletes and helping them improve throughout the sessions.