Jerel McNeal leads Marquette (23-6, 12-4) into Pittsburgh tonight to take on Pitt (26-3, 13-3). He will shoulder a huge load tonight against a tough Panther defense, and will assume additional ball-handling duties with PG Dominic James out for the remainder of the season.
McNeal declared for the NBA draft after last season, but a poor showing at pre-draft camps inspired him to return to Milwaukee for his senior year. He has flourished during his senior season and is one of the leading candidates for Big East player of the year.
TTT presents a look at Jerel McNeal’s NBA future…
Strengths: McNeal is an athletic wing player. Long arms, good finisher around the basket. Able to go right or left off the dribble. Has a solid mid-range game and has learned when to pull up instead of barreling towards the basket. A much-improved jump-shooter; shooting 42 percent from 3-point range this season after just 30 percent a year ago. Willing to take big shots and likes the ball in his hands in crunch time. Was the Big East defensive player of the year in 2008, and has retained dedication on the defensive end. Very competitive and won’t back down from bigger players.
Weaknesses: At only 6’3″, McNeal is undersized to play shooting guard in the NBA. Still needs to improve jump-shot and prove that he has legitimate NBA 3-point range. Not a great ball-handler, so don’t expect him to play the point at the next level. Size may limit success on the defensive end.
Breakdown: McNeal projects as a late first-round pick in the 2009 NBA draft. He will be a role player during his NBA career, but has a good work ethic and should improve. He has a strong character and will accept his role. McNeal could follow Raja Bell’s career path. Bell broke into the NBA as a defensive specialist but has worked hard to become a great shooter. On the other side of the coin, McNeal could become an Aaron Afflalo-type if he doesn’t continue to improve his shot.