As a teenager growing up in western Pennsylvania, Dale McNeil always envisioned making a living while showing his basketball skills in the National Basketball Association (NBA).
Now, 30 years after middle school, McNeil has expanded his dream and taught others how to achieve their goal of making it into the NBA.
McNeil, 46, founded his Driven Athletic Academy, based in Laurel, MD, to provide young players with the skills, goals, and forest structure to prepare them for ascending levels within the hoop game.
“Whether a person is looking to improve their general fitness, life skills, academics, and / or prepare for a season ahead, we offer a bespoke program to help them achieve their personal goals,” said McNeil, graduate of the Benedict College in Colombia where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Therapeutic Recreation.
“Several of our customers have achieved success both on and off the field in the NBA and professional basketball overseas, college divisions I-III levels, 4A-1A high school programs, and amateur levels Athletic Union or AAU, “he explained.
Born in Pittsburgh, he grew up in what he describes as a challenging environment known as Monview Heights Housing Projects.
“Some of my best friends are either in jail or dead,” he said, pondering his ability to choose a lifestyle that is separate from drugs, drama and despair.
As the nephew of former ABA and NBA legend Billy “Mooney” Knight, McNeil had early contact with the sport. As a toddler, he watched his uncle grow to be the Indiana Pacers’ star after a stellar college career at the University of Pittsburgh. Another uncle, Terry Knight, used to play with the San Antonio Spurs.
“My uncle Billy has always been the rock of our family, but while he has been able to help me, I’ve always taken the initiative to help myself,” he said. “He was our family role model that all my uncles and cousins wanted to emulate. He’s still our hero. “
McNeil followed his uncle’s lead and enjoyed a successful high school career at Penn Hills and Woodland Hills High Schools. He played sparingly at Allegheny County Community College and Benedict College while graduating from college.
After college, McNeil moved back to Pittsburgh, but eventually pursued a teaching career in the district, working as a physical education teacher and later as a special education teacher.
“Even though I was a teacher, basketball was still my passion,” said McNeil, married and father of two sons, Tyrik, 23 and Dimitri, 4.
“The PE teacher training and special education experience were strategically important in developing my career as a basketball teacher,” he said. “It broadened my horizons in developing young players. You never stop learning. In this way I can pass on the knowledge I have learned, ”he explained.
McNeil attributes various role models in his life: his uncles (the Knight brothers); his father, Dale McNeil, Sr .; and his stepfather Eddie Jefferies. He says Jefferies, a retired sports editor with the New Pittsburgh Courier and former hoopster at Lincoln University, “helped me stay on the straight road as a teenager and often took me to games while he was working.”
Since founding the Driven Athletic Academy, McNeil has expanded his reach, advising aspiring international players, partnered with young NBA stars during summer camps, and shared his talent as a youth development coach for organizations like the Washington Wizards (Jr Wizards).
He also assisted in the early career of retired New York Liberty great Tanisha Wright – his ex-neighbor from the Monview Heights projects.
For more information, call 301-693-6096 or visit www.drivenathleticacademy.com.