Feb. 9, 2011
By Justin Andrews
Senior forward Maurice McNeil is a force to be reckoned with on the basketball court. He's the biggest guy on the team, and often on the court no matter the opponent.
It's pretty clear to see why he can look pretty intimidating, but after sitting down with him in a one-on-one interview I realized he's just an ordinary well-mannered college kid with a not so ordinary chance of making it to the top of his sport.
McNeil leads the team with seven double-doubles during the 2010-2011 season. He hails from New York, and those of us here at the University of Houston are very glad he decided to bring his talents all the way south.
Where in New York did you grow up?
"Manhattan. I was born and raised in Harlem, New York, and my family lives in the lower east side of Manhattan."
Yankees or Mets?
"I like the Mets, man. Growing up, I remember watching Mets games with my grandmother. She was a Met fan right up to the day she passed and now I am."
Zamal and you are both seniors and are also both from New York. Has that connection built a strong bond or friendship between the two of you?
"Zamal and I knew each other before I came here actually. We played on the same AAU team up in New York, and we've known each other since we were kids. We basically grew up together."
How was the transition from New York to Houston while playing basketball?
"It helped a lot. I played AAU ball here, and from there I got recruited by Coach Scott Gernander from San Jacinto College and then from there Houston offered me a scholarship. In all, I'd say it's been pretty nice."
How was it coming in here to play for UH from San Jacinto?
"I came in with high expectations, and that's what messed me up last year. I came in thinking I was going to come here and do the same thing I did in junior college, and of course I didn't."
What's it been like playing for Coach Dickey this year vs. playing under Coach Penders last year?
"Penders was a good coach. Coach Dickey is more of an inside-out kind of guy. He likes to pound the ball inside and get easy shots. Penders' system was fun to play in also, but their styles are different at the same time."
What do you like most about playing the game of basketball?
"Man, a lot. I just love playing the game hard, hustling on every play, blocking shots and making an impact on the game every time."
What has been your favorite memory of Cougar basketball?
"Definitely winning the conference championship last year; that was an amazing accomplishment."
Speaking of that, how was your experience in March Madness last year?
"That was a great feeling. There were big lights, advertisement stickers and banners everywhere. It's something we're striving to get back to again this year, and we can do it. We just have to get that connection going like we did last year."
What legacy would you like to leave behind here at Houston?
"I want people to remember me as a great rebounder, a hustler, someone who played like Dennis Rodman at times, too. Someone who left it all on the court and gave it his all each and every time."
You're a sociology major. What are your plans or goals once your time here at Houston is done?
"I definitely want to get my degree; I believe I only have three more classes to take next semester. Getting my degree really means a lot to me so that's a priority of mine. I want to get paid to play the game somewhere professionally first and foremost after my time here is up."
What's life like on campus as a member of the basketball team?
"I feel like a regular student."
You mean to tell me you don't get any high fives walking around on campus?
"Not really, they say hi every once and a while but that's about it."
Do you have any siblings?
"I have three brothers."
Are you their role model?
"You know they all look up to me. They're very proud of me that I decided to leave New York and come down here to try and do something with my life."
What's your favorite food?
"Steak and rice."
What are some of your hobbies outside of basketball?
"I mess around in the studio every once in a while, so singing definitely."
Who is your favorite musical artist?
"R. Kelly. I like him a lot."