Jamuni Mcneace is a 24 year old 208cm center that was born in Decatur, Illinois and grew up in Allen Texas and is playing his second professional season with the HAKRO Merlins Crailsheim. Last season he played his rookie season with Salon Vilpas Vikings (Finland-Korisliiga) playing 34 games averaging 11.9ppg, 6.8rpg, 1.6apg, Blocks-4 (1.2bpg), FGP: 59.2%, FT: 51.0%. he began his basketball career with Allen High School and then played with The University of Oklahoma (NCAA) form 2015-2019 playing a total of 120 NCAA games. He spoke to germanhoops.com about his basketball career.
Thanks Jamuni for talking to germanhoops.com Where are you at the moment and how has your summer been?
I am currently in Oklahoma. It’s where I can access the gym. This summer has been different but it is for everyone.
You played your last professional game on March 11th against KTP Basket winning the game. How tough was it ending your rookie season so abruptly? How often did you contemplate the ‘what if’ question about how the season would have ended?
I think we were on a roll. We were having a good last half of the season and I believe we were going to compete in the playoffs for the championship. It’s hard seeing all our progress come to an end but the safety was more important at the time. I’ve thought about what if’s a lot when the season was first ended but I’m looking forward to this up coming season.
How did you experience the whole COVID-19 crisis in 2020 after coming home from Finland? How challenging was it staying in shape and just putting up with daily life in hard times?
For the first few months I didn’t have access to any gyms. I had to go out and buy a hoop and workout equipment for the house. It’s hard to get in basketball shape when you are required to stay inside you house. I’ve spent the last month training hard with what I have
How do you feel did the whole COVID-19 crisis make you stronger as a man?
If you are able to come out of this healthy and in shape it shows how well disciplined you are. That is what I say what made me stronger is continuing to stay disciplined at a time like this.
Congrats on signing with German BBL team Crailsheim Merlins. How blessed do you feel today landing in one of Europe’s top 5 leagues considering you started the game late and didn’t have the big time stats at Oklahoma?
I believe my time at Oklahoma was spent developing. Even my senior year I believe I was going to have a breakthrough season because of all the work I had been putting in through out my years there. Sadly with my ankle injury that year it’s just another what ifs. I’m thankful for my time there I believe it’s made me better.
What do you know in general about the country Germany and it’s basketball? Have you had any friends or ex teammates or ex opponents play in Germany?
I’ve talked to a few people this summer about the basketball there. I’m familiar with the pace they play at but you can only experience it for yourself. I played in a tough league in college and I’m ready for the challenge in Germany.
Merlins head coach Tuomas Iisalo.thinks highly of your qualities. What did you appreciate about him from the first conversations that allowed you to sign with them?
Coach Tuomas and I had a very good conversation. He believes I fit their system defensively and plays a fast pace offensive which is very attractive to all athletic big men. He also recruited guys that I know and have played against which makes transitioning to a new country easier. Spending 10 months away from family is hard but that makes it easier.
Let’s talk about your game. You’re a 208cm center that can score, rebound and block shots and have much athleticism. To what NBA player would you bets describe your game to?
There are a few guys that I like to watch. Dwight Howard was one that I grew up watching and after seeing the way he could jump and move at his size I’ve always wanted to be compared to him.
Talk a little about your other strenghes in your game.How much pride do you take on the defensive end and how vital is your energy in propelling your offense in certain situations?
I’ve been blessed with athleticism and length as those are not up to you to decide. They allow me to defend multiple positions and play the pick in roll with lob threat drawing help defense. I’ve also been able to finish with both hands as it was a major skill my coaches at Oklahoma wanted. We played a lot of 1 on 1 in the post so naturally all of use bigs there developed nice post scoring abilities.
The easyCredit BBL is a step above the Korsliga. On what area’s of your game are you working on this summer so you will be best prepared to be successful in Germany?
I’ve been working on my shooting touch. I’ve never been a great free throw shooter. This summer we’ve been focusing on holding my release so that my follow through and shot are becoming more consistent.
Last season as a rookie you played with the Salon Vilpas Vikings (Finland-Korisliiga) playing 34 games averaging 11.9ppg, 6.8rpg, 1.6apg, Blocks-4 (1.2bpg), FGP: 59.2%, FT: 51.0%. What was your wake up call to being a rookie in Europe where you knew that you were very far away from home?
I really enjoyed playing more. My coach in Finland had very high expectations of me and he knew how my season was the year before with the ankle and how it had affected me. He gave me the confidence I needed by allowing me time to develop and providing a lot of one on one time to work on shooting. Our team had a lot of chemistry and we all enjoyed playing for and with each other. Having those types of guys are going to make the transition easier and when you are happy where you are you can compete at a high level.
You were a very efficient player as a rookie. How advantageous was doing the most in the minutes you got at Oklahoma in helping you grow as an efficient player in Finland?
I try to do what I do best and what we planned before. At Oklahoma you had to compete because there was 3-4 guys waiting for their shot as well. I was on a roll before my ankle and once the season ended I worked on nothing but strengthening my legs back. You have to be efficient especially as a center. You have to protect the rim and stop your man from scoring. It’s a tough position to play so you have to be good at what you do best.
You were only teammates with him for 7 games, but what kind of experience was it playing together with the very experienced Jeramiah Wood? What do you feel could you soak up most from his game in the short time you were together on the team?
Wood was very vocal. He plays as hard as he can for as long as he can. He does what he does best all the time. He doesn’t try and be fancy or cool he goes in and gets his work done. That’s how I want to be. Effective and efficient.
In the summer of 2019 you had NBA workouts with teams OKC Thunder, Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies, and San Antonio Spurs. What kind of experience was that for you and with what team do you feel did you leave the best impression?
It was a very good experience. It was exciting that teams allowed me to come and workout for them even after how my senior season went. I’m was excited and it help build more confidence.
With all the work outs you had, do you remember having a meaningful conversation with a coach or player that you won’t forget?
Yes, during my workout with the suns I remember talking to Monty Wlliams and him telling me, that even though they gave us a play to use, you have to always read what’s going on and react to that instead of trying to force the play. Once I got to Finland and played with Teemu I realized there was a lot of reads that can come off a single play and you have to not be afraid to see them rather than forcing a play.
You played at the University of Oklahoma from 2015-2019. You reached the NCAA Final 4 in 2016 as a freshman. What memories do you have of the tough 95-51 loss to Villanova where you scored 4 points and had 1 block? Is it sometimes easier to forget a slaughter than losing at the wire?
We all joke about it calling it the final 44. But after a beating like that it’s hard not to laugh.
You were teammates with 2 amazing guards with Buddy Hield at the beginning and Trae Young near the end. How much easier did they make your job and please give an example of each player’s game that you will never forget?
Trae and Buddy being the best players in college basketball their respected years are going to make anyone’s job easier. Trae allowed me to score career highs by just throwing lobs over people. Buddy was getting a bucket every time he touched the ball.
How important do you feel was it banging daily with big men like Hannes Polla from Finland and Matt Freeman from New Zealand in terms of you being introduced to other ways of playing against other big men?
We played a lot of 1 on 1s at OU. Hannes plays more like a traditional big man and Matt is a stretch 4. I’ve played against big men who played like guards to big man who were 6 inches taller than me. Playing basketball for Oklahoma gives you the opportunity to play against guys that are some of the best in the world.
You had many memorable games at Oklahoma, but where do you rank your 14/14 game in the 70-66 victory over Texas?
It’s always fun beating Texas. OU Vs TX was not me of my favorite games and it is was excited to beat them in our house.
How did head coach Lon Kruger groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
He gave me a lot of responsibility my senior season. Him and our assistant coach Carlin Hartman
gave me a lot of attention and even changed the offense to run through the post. Mike Shepard gave us a tough schedule that put us against the toughest competition and allowed us to develop. The whole experience at Oklahoma would prepare you for a pro career. It’s tough and professional.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Khadeem Lattin?
I was very good at one on one. I haven’t lost many.
Who was the best player that you battled at your position in the NCAA that reached the NBA?
Blake Griffin has played pick up with us a few times and he’s the best player I’ve played against.
Please list your 5 best teammates of all-time?
This is impossible I love all my teammates
Please list your own personal NBA Mount Rushmore of 4 heads past or present?
Kobe, Lebron, Jordan, Shaq
What is your personal opinion of the neverending debate of who is the best of all-time Michael Jordan and Lebron James and why isn’t Kobe Bryant mentioned more in this discussion?
Lebron is the best basketball player to very play the game. People who don’t mention Kobe as one of the best of all time don’t need to have an opinion until they educate themselves on who Kobe was.
What was the last movie that you saw?
In theatre the Joker.
Thanks Jamuni for the chat.