PALM BEACH GARDENS – Much of Dwyer’s boys’ basketball success in 2021 can be attributed to thriving young goalie Kyle McNeal, a team captain helping the Panthers overcome injuries from key contributors.
The Panthers beat Boca Raton 80-31 in the Holiday Basketball Classic on Tuesday to extend the team’s winning streak to five straight games and go 7-1 on aggregate.
The tournament continued with an unbalanced win over Oxbridge Academy on Wednesday and a win over Wellington in Thursday’s league game.
McNeal is averaging 17.3 points per game this season, more than double the score of any other player in the roster.
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With the injuries of two-time star athlete Xavier Scott healing, an even bigger role has been asked of McNeal – and the junior goalie has played both on and off the pitch.
“We suffered a loss, but we bounced back,” McNeal said of the season so far. “We just played hard. The coach always tells us to play hard and play aggressive and go for the basket. Every loose ball counts. We just have to play hard, and that’s how we come out with the “W”.
“He earned the title of captain,” said Dwyer’s head coach Fred Ross. “He worked hard all summer. He entered basketball this year. Last year he played football and basketball. This year he only wanted to play one, and you can see the progression he’s making.
As a junior, McNeal has yet to receive any offers or visit many colleges, but in the words of his coach, “it will come.” Duke would be the school of his dreams.
McNeal wants to have multiple offers by the start of his senior season, and he knows a strong work ethic is just as important as talent when it comes to attracting college programs.
Ross said he knew it wouldn’t be a problem as McNeal has become a star on every level.
“The group chat, I send it to him; he’s sending it to his team, ”Ross said. “He’s a total leader. Children need a ride, he is there to help them. He does everything for this team, and now the kids trust him. They know he has their best interests at heart and we are following him now. “
McNeal remembers the program leaders when he was a freshman on the team and thinks he started very early on on the path to a leadership role because of it. Last season Dwyer reached the Class 7A semifinals and McNeal was the team’s second-leading scorer.
When college attention begins, Ross already knows what recruiters are going to see when they look at his junior star.
“They’re going to find a kid that’s probably 50% of where it can be,” Ross said. “They’re going to find a kid who loves basketball. They will find a child who is willing to work hard. Today he called me at 7:30 am: “May I come in early? They are going to find a child who loves the game.