Dwyer basketball star Kyle McNeal blossoms into 'total leader'

Alex Peterman
Special to The Post
Dwyer guard Kyle McNeal shoots an uncontested three from the corner during the Holiday Basketball Classic on Dec. 28, 2021. The Panthers defeated Boca in the game, 80-31.

PALM BEACH GARDENS — Much of Dwyer boys basketball's success in 2021 can be traced back to blossoming junior guard Kyle McNeal, a team captain helping the Panthers overcome injuries to key contributors. 

The Panthers blew out Boca Raton 80-31 on Tuesday in the Holiday Basketball Classic to extend the team's winning streak to five-straight games and improve to 7-1 overall.

Tournament play continued with a lopsided win against Oxbridge Academy on Wednesday and a win over Wellington in Thursday's championship game. 

McNeal is averaging 17.3 points per game this season, more than double the scoring output of any other player on the roster.

More Hoops:3 takeaways as Wellington boys basketball continues hot start

More:High school roundup: Another big scoring night from Kendra Bentley steers Santaluces

More Features:Vicktory: Viral transfer Brooklyn Vick is the solution for St. Andrew's boys basketball

Dwyer guard Kyle McNeal rises above Boca Raton defenders for a jump shot during the Holiday Basketball Classic on Dec. 28, 2021.

With star dual athlete Xavier Scott nursing injuries, an even greater role has been asked of McNeal – and the junior guard has delivered both on and off the court.

“We had one loss, but we bounced back,” McNeal said of the season thus far. “We've just been playing hard. Coach always tells us to play hard and play aggressive and get to the basket. Every loose ball counts. We've just got to play hard, and that's how we've been coming out with the ‘W.’”

“He earned the captain-ship,” Dwyer head coach Fred Ross said. “He worked hard all summer. He committed to basketball this year. Last year, he played both football and basketball. This year, he wanted to play just one, and you can see progression that he's making.”

As a junior, McNeal hasn’t yet entertained offers or taken visits to many colleges, but in the words of his coach, “that will come.” Duke would be his dream school. 

McNeal wants to have several offers by the time he begins his senior season, and he knows that a strong work ethic is just as important as talent when it comes to attracting college programs. 

Ross said he knows that won’t be a problem as McNeal has grown into an all-around star.          

Dwyer guard Kyle McNeal tracks Boca's Josh Carvajal. His defensive pressure helped the Panthers dominate en route to an 80-31 win in the Holiday Basketball Classic on Dec. 28, 2021.

“The group chat, I send it to him; he sends it out to his team,” Ross said. “He's a total leader. Kids need a ride, he's there to help. He's doing everything for this team, and now the kids are trusting him. They know he's got their best interest at heart and we're following him now."

McNeal remembers the program’s leaders when he was a freshman on the squad and feels that he started on the path to a leadership role early because of that. Last season, Dwyer reached the Class 7A state semifinals and McNeal was the team's second-leading scorer. 

When the attention from colleges begins, Ross already knows what recruiters are going to see when they look at his star junior. 

“They're going to find a kid that is probably 50 percent of where he can get to,” Ross said. “They're going to find a kid that loves basketball. They're going to find a kid that is willing to work hard. Today, he called me at 7:30 in the morning: 'Can I get in early?' They're going to find a kid that loves the game.”