If your in an arena in Germany and have your ears on properly in radar mode, it is very possible you could hear a Japhet McNeil (183-PG-85, college: Bridgeport) smooth talking someone even when your in a line dreaming of sinking your teeth into a juicy German Hot Dog. Even if your totally preoccupied as your watching a food stand attendant prepare the scrumptious Hot Dog, you will notice Japhet McNeil no matter what. Even if you don’t know him personally, just seeing him in front of you in his modern threads, massive wide simile and hearing his mesmerizing words, you could easily think that back in the day he was one of those guys that was loved in school and was popular. His smooth talking is something everyone notices. ‘My wife tells me that! I guess that’s from growing up in the heart of New York City. When I attended East Carolina Univ. The Southern people would say ‘ Jah your talking to fast ‘ and I would reply ‘ I’m not talking to fast, your just listening to slow’, laughed Japhet McNeil. Japhet and I go way back and still have a nice relationship today after having first met during his rookie season in 2008-2009 when he balled for USC Heidelberg. I remember watching a game between TV Langen and USC Heidelberg and seeing his dazzling basketball talent for the first time. USC Heidelberg was a team that had another young and talented player named Jibril Hodges who is the son of NBA champion, NBA three point contest winner and Michael Jordan teammate of the early 90’s Craig Hodges. The team also had a very young Danilo Barthel who currently is one of the big guns for the German national team at the Olympics in Japan. The American knew early on that Danilo Barthel was special. ‘Sometimes when you see a kid and he has the goods you know he got that ‘IT’ Danillo Barthel had it’, remembered Japhet McNeil. We met and understood each other masterfully and over the years a nice friendship developed as well as various interviews that today stands at 8. The first interview we did together was in 2009 and how could he forget when I invited him to my weekly basketball radio for Radio Fortuna in 2009 which at that time was the first ever weekly basketball radio show on German radio. ‘8 .That’s the Number!!! 2009. Woooow!!! That’s a blessing. I’m all about longevity. Father time is definitely undefeated. I Remember our first interview like it was yesterday. It was in Frankfurt. The set up was really cool. It reminded me of a radio station room. You gifted me a bottle of wine or maybe it was Sekt. Your hospitality was on point. I remember my girlfriend at the time, who is my wife presently accompanying me and she kept saying how cool the experience was on our way back to the city I lived in at that time. Honestly I’ve lost count on how many. But I do know that every time we’re able to chop it up about basketball and life. It’s always real. I truly enjoy our encounters and I appreciate and thanks your continued support and allowing me to express myself over the years! You mean a lot to the basketball community and I’m glad I’m able to share my continued journey through your journalism!! Your a legend Miles stay blessed’, stressed Japhet McNeil. I love meeting Japhet again in arena’s and it has happened on occasion in the last years in Frankfurt in Bonn. I’m always amazed to witness everyone that he knows. I remember over the years when he would watch his buddy fellow New York native and former Euroleague and Seton hall great Jordan Theodore (his brother from another mother) or observe him conduct passionate talk about basketball with coach Joey King who worked under top German coach John Patrick. Mcneil’s smooth talking never eludes him and sometimes he inserts that special New Yorker language that I don’t understand. I always wondered why he didn’t go into acting. I could easily have seen him slip into the Eddie Murphy role in Beverly Hills Cop and watching him weasel out of jams. ‘That’s interesting you say that because I would love my daughters to go into acting. I’m a big movie guy. I watch all genres. Eddie Murphy is a big act to follow. He’s one of the Goats ( Greatest Of All Time ) I’m not sure if I can play Eddie but you better believe if I put my mind to it I can come close. To believe is to achieve’, warned Japhet McNeil. Instead of having gone the Hollywood route, he did something way better for the game of basketball. Instead of preaching on TV, he decided to keep preaching on the court.
Even if Japhet McNeil who remembers ex easyCredit BBL player Wayne Bernard being his toughest cover in his rookie season is 36 years old, he is still playing professional ball today even if it isn’t in the foreground anymore like usual as he has found another big Love called Combine Sports. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York and attended Christ The King High School where he led the team to a Catholic Division A title in 2003. He averaged 18,0ppg as a senior and finished with over 1,100 points and finished third on the school’s all-time assist list behind future NBA players Omar Cook and Erick Barkley. He then had a steady NCAA career at East Carolina from 2003-2006 where he played 81 games. He then finished at Bridgeport University where ex NBA 229Cm player Manute Bol played as he averaged 16.6ppg, 4.0rpg, 4.9apg, StealsNCAA2-1 (4.0spg), FGP: 38.3%, 3PT: 34.6%, FT: 67.3%. He began his professional career in 2008 in Germany with USC Heidelberg averaging 14.8ppg, 3.1rpg, Assists-1 (7.9apg), Steals-1 (3.5spg), FGP: 45.4%, 3PT: 24.1%, FT: 63.3%. He belonged to the top players in the German Pro A and after that would carve out a solid professional career. He brought his talent to Finland to Kori-Konkarit Loimaa (Finland-1st Division) and also played two seasons for Schieren Black Frogs (Luxembourg-N2). But somehow he found a second home in Germany where he would always come back to and play. He also had experience with teams BG Karlsruhe (Pro A),BSW Sixers (Pro B), 1 FC Kaiserslauteren (Regionalliga) and DJK Nider-Olm (Regionalliga 2). Despite his age, he has always kept in shape mainly because of his new baby and business Combine Sports which has allowed him to still compete and play the game he cherishes. ‘I am still playing professional. I say that proudly because the journey hasn’t been easy you constantly have to find ways to reinvent yourself because it’s a young man’s sport. Off course you can play at an older age but your glory days are when your in your early to late twenties. The body recovers faster. Younger legs. You have less responsibility in life. The list goes on. The last team I was signed to was DJK Nieder-Olm. Regionaliga-2. Due to COVID 19 we were not able to play a full season. For a numerous amount of reasons I decided that playing at a lower level in Germany would be beneficial for the current phase I am in pertaining to my life’, stated Japhet McNeil.
So let’s fast forward to 2021. At the moment as usual Japhet McNeil who remembers ex NBA players Travis Diener and Darius Washington being his toughest covers in the NCAA is in Germany and has declined to take a trip back home to New York to visit family and friends as he has preferred to get a jump on some opportunities. ‘Basketball is great and has been great to me, I will continue to use basketball as a tool. The possibilities are endless’, warned Japhet McNeil. One of those great new opportunities has been teaming up with Ron Howard to form the Howard Hoops Combine which will run from August 5th to the 9th in Germany. Life has been extremely tough for everyone in the last year and a half with COVID and obviously has affected him in many ways which is very understandable. ‘First and foremost. I’d like to send out my condolences & prayers to the families that experienced losing a loved one / ones due to COVID 19. I Also want to highlight the people who was tested positive and was able to beat COVID 19. I had a few challenges with COVID 19 but the biggest challenge I’d say was not knowing. I’m thousands of miles away from my family & Parents. God forbid if any one of them would have came down with Covid. There’s NO WAY that I could get home and aid them. It was a zoo. Travel bans in full effect, hospitals wouldn’t allow family members to visit patients, you couldn’t even have a proper burial. Really tough time that our world experienced. I’m very happy that we are returning to a sense of Normalcy’, stressed Japhet McNeil. By nature he is a very upbeat human being who is always good for a joke and having a good time, but COVID also has given him time to reflect on serious things and helped him learn new things. ‘Going through this time period that I’ve encountered off the court with Covid made me appreciate the little things that we have in life. For example. Going to a restaurant of your choice, taking trips with family to see family, the option of going to the gym to hoop and most importantly the health of your loved ones. As a man I value those things a lot more and it taught me to never take life for granted’, warned Japhet McNeil.
Before becoming a part of the Howard Hoops Combine, the Queens native who has Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson and Lebron James on his personal NBA Mount Rushmore first had to build up Combine Sports something he has done successfully, but with COVID he met many new challenges. ‘Building my own business and brand was always part of my plan. My only problem was always being on the move. I never got the opportunity to sit down and actually map out the direction I wanted to go in because I was always chasing the next basketball contract. When COVID hit that forced me to sit down and really think about what’s next. Life after basketball. I had to find something that I was just as passionate about and for most athletes that’s not an easy task. This COVID period gave me some time that I needed to get my mind right mentally. It allowed me to get my paper work in order so that I can gain Dual Citizenship. American & German Passports, I accomplished that. It also allowed me to spend quality time with my wife and daughters which validated the reason for me playing at a lower level with a less strenuous schedule. The COVID period allowed me to set the blueprint for my business / brand and execute. I began investing in the market. My main goal was to gain in life because it was so much time taken away due to our COVID 19 rough patch’, warned Japhet McNeil. He has built up Combine Sports steadily over the years and continues to build it up. It may not have been the best choice in his life now, but I bet it’s at second place tied with his wife. ‘What we do at Combine Sports is basketball skill development. I wanted to find a way to sculpt our younger generations through basketball. My intent is to introduce and instill the things I’ve learned from the game of basketball to all nationalities, to all people whether your black, blue, yellow, green, white, or orange!! In this world hate and racism still exist, but through competition and sports we become one. I’ve met some of my closest friends from competing on the basketball court and they had different backgrounds, had different beliefs, dressed differently and spoke differently as well. The one thing we had in common was our will to be better basketball players and our will to win. A Universal language!!! I’ve learned so much by being open minded and it made me a better leader, player, trainer, person, father, son, friend, Husband. Hopefully I can spread that amongst the people I encounter with Combine Sports. – The best Choice I could have made at this phase in life is Josie and Jiana Mcneil. My daughters. Everything stems from them. They are the reason why I work smarter & harder’, warned Japhet McNeil. Some guys go into coaching or get normal 9-5 jobs while others just want to remain on the court and help the youth of today get better. ‘I love to develop and train players. I’m very passionate about it. Basketball has been my job ever since I can remember. I got free gear, free trips, through AAU, my tuition paid in full at Christ the King High School b/c of basketball. Awarded a full athletic scholarship for college. A 12 year playing career as a professional athlete overseas. I wanted to find a way to stay in the field without feeling like it’s a job. I’m able to train players that I’ve competed against. Players that are still playing professional. I train JBBL Players as well as NBBL players here in Germany. Last week My bro Tyrone Nash a Notre Dame University standout that also played in the BBL here in Germany called me up and booked some sessions. My BROSKI Jordan Theodore Ex Unics player, just signed to a team in Tokyo plans to come punch the clock with Combine Sports. I’m not big on name dropping because just as I look forward on training those great players, I’m looking forward to training my 8 year old client whose parents sacrifice their time. Drive them to and from the workout. Sit and watch the workout. Doing all of the above after working their 9-5 shift. The real MVP’s! The future for Combine Sports is to become a international household name for developing basketball players. I want to continue to build the brand. Grow my following with the Combine Sports Clothing brand. (Combine-Sport.Com ). I want to help young European basketball athletes attend High Schools and Universities on full athletic scholarships in America using my connections I’ve made throughout my career. I want to have the option of helping basketball athletes from America come play professional in Europe. The options are limitless. My short term goal is to invest in a location that I can build a Combine Sports Basketball lab. That’s the main problem in Germany. Resources. A Gym. A Vertimax machine, the shooting Gun machine, high quality modern training equipment that enables the athlete ETC. Once you own a space with a basketball court. You can set the bar!! Ownership!! That is the short term Goal’, stressed Japhet McNeil.
Networking is something that is done everywhere to help build connections and just help a product grow and with Japhet McNeil and Ron Howard coming together to join forces is a no brainer. Ron Howard is the God Father of helping unknown players and sometimes with no resumes help attain their dream of becoming a professional basketball player. Ron Howard also played professional ball in Europe at the same time as Japhet McNeil. Howard formed Howard Hoops in 2015 and the German basketball community is so small. but why did it take so long to come together? ‘Ron and I go way back. We used to see each other out all the time at events whether it was in Frankfurt or Kaiserslautern on and off the court. We had mutual friends. I respected his basketball mind and his will to help basketball players and he respected mine. We’ve had several conversations on where or what could we bring to the table together. Our main objective is to give back, to help the next person change their surroundings, change their lives through basketball. We came up with the Howard Hoops Combine. Your Right about that. The German basketball community is small. I guess it was more about timing. We are trying to recover from a pandemic. A lot of players lost out on opportunities to play overseas. Seasons for European basketball Clubs were affected by the pandemic tremendously. Sponsorships were cut. That means less money for budget. So many factors played apart. When you look around there’s not to many platforms that allows players to come display their talent and earn a professional contract to play overseas basketball. Not in Europe!!! Coaches in Europe or Club managers receive 25 emails with game film a day from different players and agents. That can be overwhelming for the club and coaching staff. A lot of players become lost in the pile of emails. We want to create and build an atmosphere where players can be seen or talked to directly by European coaches, agents, or club managers. With hopes of signing a contract to start their career or further their careers’, stated Japhet McNeil. It is too bad that they never actually faced off on the court. That would have been a brutal basketball battle. ‘ I heard Ron was a Dawg!! If he attacked his opponents like he does his goals then I have no doubts about his hooping ability!! He’s a lefty. Lefty’s are uncanny, very hard to guard’, said Japhet McNeil. The combination of Howard and Mcneil with their talent of finding players, placing them on pro teams and developing their skills is one of a kind. ‘Our Main Goal is to create a platform that basketball players can use to earn a professional contract to play overseas basketball. Not only Americans. We hope to have all nationalities. The best player for the job. We aim to build relationships with players, agents, agencies, club managers and coaches. To build trust worthy relations that if a player or team is needed we are able to help both parties. When it all boils down to having two individuals with a lot of experience in Europe that’s passionate about the game of basketball. Passionate about helping basketball players change their lives. Both platforms Howard Hoops and Howard Hoops Combine’s general purpose is to use basketball as a tool. Ron Howard has encountered and helped so many basketball players through and through. I have in different ways as well. Now we are Combining our powers as a unit to continue to push the basketball culture forward’, warned Japhet McNeil. The Howard HOOPS Combine will have the biggest roster ever and will play games against each other as well against German regionalliga teams Ibbenburen and Bigger See where German coaches and Gm’s will be in attendance to observe the raw talent.
Even with the Howard Hoops Combine being his biggest issue at the moment, the American is always good for giving his two cents on certain basketball topics and he is never short with his answers. Americans living in the states who never saw Luka Doncic develop in Europe with Real Madrid continue to be slow on giving him the deserved props on his ability. But if you ask American players in Europe who played against him years back and saw him play give him more respect. It isn’t any different with Japhet McNeil. But he doesn’t share the same opinion with me yet that he is currently a top 3 NBA player. ‘I’m Very high on Luka ‘Magic ‘Doncic. But what I’m not big on is giving a player that top 3 tag so easily. The basketball culture known for that. They love the New kid on the block ready and willing to give that top 3 tag away. For other great players they drag them through the mud to get that tag. They have to be Superman in order to get that top 3 tag. They pick and choose swayed by what have you done for me lately, it’s funny how quickly sports fans forget. That goes for the fans and sports analyst. First they love you and then they hate you. Then they Love you again! Thats a Hov Bar – Luka is dead NICE!! But he’s not top 3 yet. Has to learn how to lead. He knows how to win. Won in Europe. Won several awards individually. He has to figure out how in the NBA. Last but not least Luka has to make free throws! He supposed to be shooting 85% and up! He is a great young talent. Slovenia and the NBA will be in great hands’, expressed Japhet McNeil. He also gave his personal opinion about where Chris Paul is in the top point guards of all-time and how team USA will fair at the Olympics. ‘With or W/o a ring I believe Chris Paul ( CP3) is Top 5 PG’s all time. He will be a first ballot hall of famer. It’s only right I go with team USA. I do think it’s a lot of parity in teams. When you look at every roster you see a legit NBA player or two or a Very good European player listed. I won’t be surprised if team USA doesn’t win it all. I can tell you that’, commented Japhet McNeil. You also have to be very careful when asking him about the biggest basketball debate question currently about who is the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan or Lebron James. I mean how can one seriously omit Kobe Bryant in this discussion? ‘Michael 1 ( A ) Kobe 1 ( B ) LBJ 1 ( C ) – It’s the highlight watching fans and the sports analyst who never played a lick of basketball that don’t have The late GREAT Kobe Bryant In the GOAT discussion. The real students of the game. Current and past NBA players mention Bean in the Greatest of all time discussions!! Real Hoopers know!!! #BlackMamba’, warned Japhet McNeil. Of course, he is no stranger to my last question in interviews ‘what was the last movie that you saw’, but this time, he gave his feedback on the Coming To America sequel and why they should have left it alone. ‘I did see the sequel to Coming to America and I took it for what it was worth. It’s hard to top part one. I think they prolonged the sequel. All the actors in the sequel accomplished and established. As opposed to part one no Hollywood household names. The actors and actresses were trying to be where they’re at financially as actors in the sequel. It’s a DIFFERENT Funny way more Raw’, warned Japhet McNeil. In my book Japhet McNeil could easily moonlight as an actor, but then again if that didn’t work, he could easily be a movie critic.