Sean McNeil’s collegiate basketball career started at Bellarmine University in Kentucky, which was a Division II school at the time.
His stint with the Knights didn’t last long — just two days in 2017.
“You always look back and think about where you came from, and you never try to forget where you came from,” McNeil said. “I definitely think how it would’ve been different.”
After leaving Bellarmine, McNeil went on to lead the nation in scoring at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio, before transferring to West Virginia. He averaged nearly 30 points per game, getting the attention of a number of Division I programs.
His journey came full circle as he and his Mountaineers defeated the visiting Knights Tuesday night.
“It was definitely more than just another game,” McNeil said. “I still keep in contact with a few of those guys. Scott [Davenport] is a good coach, he’s a good guy. I have tons of respect for them for sure. But I definitely marked this one on the calendar.”
McNeil scored 14 points against his old team. He scored West Virginia’s opening four points, as he knocked down a pair of jump shots from the left side of the court.
Later in the first half, McNeil was on the receiving end of a lob pass from Taz Sherman for an alley-oop lay-in.
The guard then knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the second half, both times with a hand in his face. His second trey ball gave WVU a 20-point lead.
“I was definitely ready for this one. Coming into this one, I wanted this one bad,” McNeil said. “But again, I wasn’t trying to force from the beginning. But I had two of them early, and tried to get it going from there.”
Bellarmine is roughly 90 minutes from McNeil’s hometown of Union, Kentucky, which is near the Ohio-Kentucky border.
Davenport foresaw the type of player that McNeil has become before he ever arrived at Bellarmine.
“He has one trait that every player must have: he can really shoot the basketball and does so with great confidence. He is not just a shooter, he is a complete player,” Davenport said as part of a scouting report on his newest recruits back in November of 2016.
McNeil returned home to Union after his short stint on the Knights’ campus. His basketball career was on pause while he was dealing with things outside of the game he loves.
“There was a few things going on. There was some personal stuff. I felt like I wasn’t really ready,” McNeil said. “I went home for a year, went to community college at home. They didn’t have any sports, so I was just working out. And then, so my sophomore year, technically, I went to junior college, and then came here.”
A few years later, McNeil is the second-leading scorer on a Power 5 program that’s coached by a future hall of fame head coach in Bob Huggins.
It may not have been clear on his walk out of Davenport’s office in 2017, but McNeil’s decision to step away from the Knights has worked out for him.
“My mom and dad weren’t very pleased with me when I decided to leave within 48 hours,” McNeil said. “But I joke with them now, and I tell them that I knew it was going to play out like this.”