Japhet McNeil is a 32 year old 183 cm guard from Brooklyn, New York playing his 10th professional season and second with 1. FC Kaiserslautern (Germany-Regionalliga) and last season he played 24 games averaging 12.7ppg, 3.6rpg, 4.9apg, Steals-2(3.6spg), FGP: 46.6%, 3PT: 10.5%, FT: 61.2%. He played at East Carolina from 2003 -2006. He then transferred to Bridgeport(NCAA2) for his senior year in 2006-2007. At Bridgeport, he played 31 games averaging 16.6ppg, 4.0rpg, 4.9apg, 4.0spg, FT: 67.3%, FGP: 38.3%, 3PT: 34.6%. In 2008-2009, he played his rookie season in Germany in the PRO A for USC Heidelberg playing 30 games and averaging 14.8ppg, 3.1rpg, Assists-1(7.9apg), Steals-1(3.5spg), FGP: 45.4%, 3PT: 24.1%, FT: 63.3%. In 2009-2010, he played in Finland for Kori-Konkarit Loimaa (Finland-1st Division, starting five): 5 games: 9.8ppg, 2.6rpg, 2.8apg, 3.4spg, FGP: 35.0%, 3PT: 19.0%, FT: 50.0%. In 2010-2011 he played for BG Karlsruhe (Germany-ProA) playing 3 games averaging 4.0ppg, 1.3rpg, 1.7apg. In 2011-2012 he got experience playing for the Connecticut TopBallerz (ABA). In 2012-2013, he played for the BSW Sixers (Germany-ProB) playing 14 games averaging 4.5ppg, 1.6rpg, 4.1apg, 1.5spg. He then played two seasons with the Schieren Black Frogs (Luxembourg-N2) and a season with DJK Nieder-Olm (Germany-Oberliga). He spoke to German Hoops about basketball at the start of 2018. Since then 1. FC Kaiserslautern has a 3-4 record.
Japhet thanks for talking to German Hoops. Where are you at the moment and how was your holiday season this year?
Thanks for having me miles, always a pleasure! Currently I’m back in Germany. My holiday break was refreshing. Got a chance to visit my home town with my wife and my 10 month old daughter. Well needed trip.
2018 has come. Are you the kind of guy that believes in setting new years resolutions or are you the type of guy that doesn´t bother and just lives from day to day?
I’m more of a new year, same motto type of guy. Keep striving on growth. If I need to adjust something in life then so be it, but new year resolutions are pretty much for the folks who sign up for gym memberships on Jan 2!!
The last interview we did was in the summer of 2014. Has time flown by in the last three years. How has the man Japhet Mcneil matured as a player and person since this time?
Yeah a lot has changed since then. I became a husband and a father, business owner and established my life in Germany off the court. Where I can have comfortable living. That balance is key, it allows me to play with a different poise.
Your turning 33 years old in April and are playing your 10th season as a professional. Is the game still as much fun as it was when you were a rookie with Heidelberg and what do you tend to enjoy more now then back then?
10 th SEASON!!! It doesn’t even feel like it. Obviously Father Time is undefeated. I feel at 32 there’s just so more this game has to offer. I m going to always have a special love for this game. It’s a life style. Back then I didn’t stop and take the time to appreciate what the game has allowed me to do. Now when I reflect on everything I try to appreciate that aspect of it and take it all in. Nothing is given.
Your playing your second season with 1. FC Kaiserslautern (Germany-Regionalliga). Since you have found a second home in the area, do you feel like with good conditioning and consistent hard work with the game that you could finish your career there?
Playing in the Regionalliga for 1. Fck has allowed me to establish myself off the court in Germany while playing at a solid competition level. Regio 1. Is not as time consuming as Pro A. Or Pro B. In order to be the father I wanted to be, in order for me to be the husband I wanted to be. I needed time to establish myself.
Last season 1. FC Kaiserslautern (Germany-Regionalliga)) finished in the middle of the pack and this season are in the middle as well. The club has a lot of gifted Americans. Is the team underachieving at the moment? How much potential do you have as a club?
We have a lot of talent. The problem is that everyone is not professional. Some guys on the team have full time jobs. We practice 3 or 4 times per week. We tend to come in the gym with outside focuses at the Regio 1 level and you can be beat no matter how much talent you think you have. I wouldn’t say we are underachieving no I wouldn’t call it that.
(fck) Has a lot of potential, fans are great, basketball tradition town , they have a professional soccer team in the 2nd league, town is usually cool to find something to do.( night life) A lot of potential!( Kaiserslautern)
Would it be a correct assessment that the club could score more and do a better job on the defensive end? What building blocks does the team have and how will it be best corrected?
Correct assessment on the defensive end. We must take pride from start to finish. We have spurts when we play great, we have to figure out our medium. It’s all about effort. Heart. And wanting to be better! That’s how you can correct it. I think it’s correctable.
Does the team lack the depth of German players? Often it is very vital having the right and skilled Germans to get over the hump in the Regionalliga?
Having good German players is very key to getting over that hump. At the moment our German players are young and developing, but I see them putting the time in and the effort, that’s all you can ask.
Talk a little about your two American teammates Aaron Ellis who is turning into a 1. FC Kaiserslautern (Germany-Regionalliga) lifer and John Barber. What special relationship do you have with them and how does your game profit from their play?
Aaron and John are our 2 bigs. Great guys with great personalities. Due to the circumstances we really haven’t got to play on the court at the same time. Only in practice. But hopefully that’s something to look forward to!
Let´s talk about your game. Your 32 and putting up solid stats in the Regionalliga. With your drive to always want to be the best have you been satisfied with your play or can it still be heightened this season?
My play hasn’t been great but it has not been bad. I feel if given the full responsibility as a leader and a PG then my game peaks. Last Season I was awarded Euro basket defensive player of the year (region) I take that with pride, it’s always new heights that can be reached. ALWAYS !
In our last interview you stated “Every day I learn. Every day. I´m always going to be a student of the game. Learning and getting better will never get old to me. That’s the beauty of this game Your always able to grow. Mentally, physically, emotionally”. Is it more difficult to do that now at age 32?
Every day is a learning experience. Especially on the court. I say that because you must go in the gym with a focus to get better. As a player, a student, or even as a teammate. There is Always room for improvement I don’t care who you are!! As you get older it becomes easier because your more aware and the experience you have established allows you to understand even more so.
You see so many friends since years balling in a higher league. I have also seen you as a guy that could easily be an impact player in the pro B or be on a Pro A roster as that kind of role player. How have you come to terms with your career situation on a daily basis mentally knowing that you could be at a higher level, but just have to accept the path that God has chosen for you?
God has been great to me. I don’t question him. I believe that I will be back at the level I should be. I believe if I continue to stay on route that I will get the opportunity I deserve.
Timing is key
You played this season against Saarlouis and Ricky Easterling who belongs to the top Regionalliga players in Germany over the last 10 years. How much do you still get up battling against players like this who can hurt you from possession to possession as in his case his mid distance shot?
.What’s crazy is I’ve heard so much about him over the years and this year was the first time we got a chance to compete against one another. Rick is a uncanny crafty lefty player that gets buckets, his teammates respect him, I respect him. He put in a lot of work out here in Germany! Good dude! Enjoyed competing against him.
In our last interview three years ago, you stated this about your ex Heidelberg teammate “I’m so proud of Danillo. But honestly I’m not surprised at all. Sometimes when you see a kid and he has the goods you know he got that “IT” Danillo had it. He worked extremely hard, he was always humble, had good foot work with good outside touch while being able to display athleticism. What surprised me was his growth spurt! He was 6 ‘6- 6’7 when were teammates, I’m not sure sure but I’m guessing now he is 6’9-6’10 easy. When you combine all of that, along with youth and a high basketball IQ, I think we have yet to see the best from Danillo. He will only get better”. How have you seen his development from Frankfurt through Munich?
Skies is the limit for Danillo!! Just watching him play puts a smile on my face. True definition of talent and hard work combined. He deserves everything he has accomplished as a professional. I’m still proud of Danillo. That’s my guy
I remember two seasons ago, you came to many Fraport Skyliner games supporting your homey Jordan Theodore. He has made a rapid rise to a Euroleague player. He told me last season that his goal is still the NBA: Can he still get there?
Jordan Theodore is my brother from another mother. Supporting friends is something I love to do. But only if the energy is reciprocated. I believe in Jordan. In Frankfurt he told me he was going be a millionaire. He’s a man of his word. My question is How can you not consider him on a NBA roster!
Do you still have contact with your ex teammate Jibril Hodges? He has gone the coaching route. Could you imagine following his footsteps or is your future continuing to be in the entertainment/restaurant area?
Jibril and I had some memorable years shared together. No doubt about that. He’s retired now and focused on new beginnings and I wish nothing but the best for him and his family. He coached for 1 season, I think that was more of a test my foot in the waters. My focus is to continue establishing myself in Germany. Becoming a household name. The rest will take care itself.
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you chose?
Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson
Lebron James failed to win his fourth NBA title and is still three away from Michael Jordan. Where does Lebron stand right now in your opinion in the never ending debate of who is the best of all-time?
Lbj stands right now at #3 on my all time greats. Can’t go to the finals that much and lose that much and still be the greatest. Don’t work like that!
There has been criticism of Russell Westbrook to be focusing more on rebounding to help inflate his stats and possibilities of getting triple doubles instead of focusing on his defensive assignments. Do you feel that this is a fair assessment to the player Russell Westbrook?
Russell Westbrook watered down the triple double effect! Factssssss
He was fortunate enough to play with players that will allow him to do that. I don’t think Melo and Paul G. are going to allow that the 2 have to rebound in order to be the players they are.
How do you summarize the 2017 NBA Draft. What sleepers do you see playing a role in the NBA?
I thought 2017 NBA draft was pretty good. My sleepers were Spider Mitchell and Jayson Tatum. I love Lonzo Ball though! Ben Simmons don’t count he’s a red shirt rookie !
Where will the journey of the Houston Rockets go this season with Chris Paul and James Harden in the back court. Do they have enough to make a serious run at the title or is something missing?
I think Houston has a title run in them. James Harden has to stop brain farting in the playoffs and then going to club after like nothing is wrong. Leaders don’t do that.
How do you rate the Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas trade? Who got the better deal and which team will profit better in the long run?
I think Boston wins in this trade. Ky in my opinion is the best ( NBA )combo point guard. There’s no true point guards in the league with the exception of Chris Paul. Really it’s combo guards that’s playing the point. I like Isaiah Thomas though how can you not like a guy with a story like that!
Where will the journey of the Oklahoma Thunder go this season with Westbrook, George and Anthony? Can they make a serious run in the west?
I’m not buying Okc. That personal doesn’t fit with Russell or maybe Russell personality doesn’t fit with them. To many good teams in the west.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Thanks Japhet for the chat.