Daquein McNeil living up to the hype

Daquein McNeil left Baltimore last summer to spend his sophomore year at Vermont Academy in sleepy Saxtons River, Vt.

When the 6-foot-3, 170-pound combo guard returned to Charm City in the spring, he did so with an improved game, an elevated profile and a notable difference in his “maturity level.” McNeil put what he learned in Vermont to practice all spring and summer long on the circuit with Nike Baltimore Elite’s 17-and-under team.

“Even though I’m like the youngest one on the team, I’m kind of like the big brother,” McNeil said Saturday after the Bmorehoops.com National All-Star Game at The Dome. “[I try to] keep everyone in sync so everything’s going good.”

Coming off a sophomore season in which he was ranked the No. 5 player in New England for his class and the No. 1 player in Vermont, McNeil picked up where he left off with Nike Baltimore Elite. Despite his youth, he emerged as a go-to scorer for the team and a legitimate high-major recruit. CBSSports.com noted that at the Peach Jam, McNeil "impressed onlookers with his consistent scoring ability, getting to the rim and also knocking down outside shots." In Scout.com’s post-summer rankings, McNeil was listed as a four-star prospect and the No. 17 shooting guard in the 2013 class.

McNeil claims offers from Louisville, Richmond, Rutgers, South Florida, VCU and Washington. He listed the Spiders and Rams as early favorites in his recruitment.

“Richmond has been recruiting me since I was a freshman. And I like [assistant] coach [and Baltimore native] Jamal Brunt,” McNeil said. “VCU, I like their coaches too. We just have a strong bond.”

At the 2010 Bmorehoops.com All-Star event, McNeil said that he liked " Maryland a lot" and was hearing regularly from Terps assistant coach Bino Ranson. McNeil said Saturday that he is no longer being recruited by Maryland.

“I thought they were, but then when I mentioned them in one of my interviews, it came back [to me that] they’re not,” he said. “[It doesn’t bother me] at all. That puts a chip on my shoulder, makes me play harder, that my [home-state school is] not recruiting me.”

McNeil said he’s enjoyed his time home this summer, but is looking forward to his return to Vermont Academy for his junior year. He teamed last year with former Towson Catholic guard and Montana signee Keron DeShields. This year former Dunbar guard and fellow Nike Baltimore Elite player Jamel Artis will join McNeil at Vermont Academy.

“[I’m] so excited,” McNeil said. “It’s going to be so much fun. He doesn’t understand it yet, but it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

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