AMES — Darius McNeill knew only one way to develop his shot.
Shoot, shoot and shoot. And when he felt like he shot enough, he’d shoot more.
“After (my team does) weight training, I just shoot on the gun and get about 500 (shots up),” McNeill said. “After school I go to my strength trainer, and when I leave there I go to the gym again and do ball handling and stuff. Then I shoot again.
“So I get a lot of shots up. As much as I can every day.”
McNeill, a three-star combo guard who signed with Iowa State in November, flew a bit under the radar when compared to the likes of fellow signees Lindell Wigginton and Terrence Lewis on a national scale. But his skills fit into the mold of what Coach Steve Prohm wants his guards to be.
“I think we’re getting more athletic on the perimeter, which is great,” Prohm said in November. “Darius McNeill can play either guard spot; super quick. A guy that he’s got a bright future. His upside I think is really, really high. Competitive. Another guy with really long arms — lanky.”
At 6-foot-3 and 166 pounds, McNeill has used his athleticism and quickness in lieu of a big body. His speed and ability to get to the rim covered up other aspects of his game, but refining his jump shot over the last season gives Prohm another option at guard.
McNeill’s improved shot gives makes him a legitimate option to back up Donovan Jackson and Wigginton — who will likely start in the back court from day one.
“I can play the one and two,” McNeill said. “Mainly my defense, I can guard the two spot, and I can guard the one also. I can also come off screens and shoot. If I am the point guard in the game, I can get the ball up the floor as quickly. I’m an all-around player honestly.”
“He can shoot it and really get to the rim,” Wigginton said of McNeill. “He’s good in transition and can play the one or two. He’s versatile just like me and Donovan. He’s going to be a great addition too.”
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Iowa State has to replace Monte Morris, Naz Mitrou-Long, Matt Thomas and Deonte Burton in the back court — the four combining to score 58.9 points per game. A lot of that production will likely have to be made up by younger players.
Wigginton, Jackson and sophomore Solomon Young are probable starters with junior Nick Weiler-Babb, who can also handle the ball at times, playing a key role. Sophomore Jakolby Long, Lewis and McNeill will likely be in the same boat to fit in and find minutes wherever needed.
“I worked on being more of a leader and talker,” McNeill said. “Just getting everybody else involved (was what I focused on last year). I feel like I did that because my assists went up to six or seven assists a game so I think I did good on that.”
McNeill jumped 61 spots in the final 247Sports rankings, moving up to No. 145. Iowa State’s 2017 class sits at No. 29 overall and No. 3 in the Big 12, although McNeill said he hasn’t paid much attention to the buzz around rankings.
“When I get to the Big 12, my game is going to show,” McNeill said. “Rankings don’t really determine who you are.”
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