Throughout the summer, SoonerSports.com will focus on each of the returning Sooners from Oklahoma men's basketball in a reoccurring feature series, "Commit to the Plan"
Center Jamuni McNeace sees himself as a student of the game. He has to be, as basketball is still a relatively new endeavor for the 6-10 redshirt junior.
“Every month I learn a little bit more, a little bit more I can do in basketball,” said McNeace. “With basketball, I didn't really grow up watching it, no one in my family played. My dad didn't play sports in college, my mom didn't. I really had no one to watch and grow up to be like. So I had to learn it all myself.”
McNeace had a late start when it came to competitive basketball, not getting an opportunity to play in an organized setting until a sophomore year growth spurt in high school.
“I tried out freshman year with an offseason team, but when all the athletes and football players came back I got kicked to the side,” reflected McNeace. “Sophomore year I moved back to Illinois and played a little out there. Then I started growing, but grew too much and had a lot of knee pain that put me out a lot and only played a few games at the end of the year. Junior year I moved back to Allen [Texas] where my coach helped me out. That's where it all really started, right there.”
Redshirting his first season before seeing time off the bench the past two seasons, McNeace enters his fourth year in Lon Kruger's program. McNeace's athleticism and size has helped him in his adjustment to the college game – a natural force in the paint – but feels he is getting ready to make that next jump on and individual level with the continued support of the coaching staff and the mindset of his brothers in the locker room.
“Everyone just wants to win right now,” said McNeace.
McNeace is working both in the gym and the weight room on putting himself in the best position to help the Sooners next season. McNeace wants to add size off the court, referencing the build of other big men he's seen such as former Kansas center Landen Lucas, while improving his offense on the floor.
“Individually, I need to put my time in like everybody else,” said McNeace. “Work on scoring, work on getting shots off, work on free throws and all that stuff…The 4s and 5s are becoming interchangeable now. So they want all the bigs working on being able to play outside and in, so we're working on driving, passing and all that kind of stuff.”
One of the most notable aspects of McNeace's current offensive game is his signature one-handed floater. Not playing basketball while he was younger, McNeace found himself struggling with some of the basic shooting mechanics.
“I was trying for my first two years to learn how to shoot,” said McNeace. “I just gave up, it was tough. I was learning from scratch, changing my form all the time. In practice I might shoot really well, then shoot differently. I would practice with one handed shots every morning, right in front of the rim. I thought, I might as well just shoot with one hand and see what happens. I started dropping shots, so I just stuck with it.”
He's continuing to work on the floater and using his size to score, while adding in elements to his offense such as shooting off the dribble.
McNeace wants to develop one more area of his game this offseason – leadership. One of the older players on a still very young squad, McNeace is hoping to step up and use his experience in the program to influence younger Sooners.
“Especially the guys that play my position, I try and make sure they work out with me every time I work out,” said McNeace. “I make them come with me and try to get them in the gym as much as I am. Hopefully I'm becoming a leader.”
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