Leader Blues

Friday, June 16, 2006

SPORTS>> Red Devil leading scorer signs with SW Iowa State

By Jason King
Leader sports writer

IN SHORT: Jacksonville guard Lavar Neely signed on to continue his basketball career in the Hawkeye state.

Jacksonville High School graduate Lavar Neely signed his letter of intent to play basketball at Southwest Iowa St. Wednesday afternoon at the Boys and Girls club in Jacksonville.

Neely was an offensive leader on the Red Devils team last year, averaging 25.3 points per game, along with 4.3 steals per game and 3.3 assists per game. His efforts over the season helped Jacksonville earn a No. 3 seed to the state playoffs. One of Neely’s most impressive performances came against eventual state runners-up Jonesboro in Jack-sonville’s second conference game against the Hurricane in Jonesboro. Neely came away with over 30 points in the game to lead the upset-win.

Neely planned on waiting for the results of his SATs before making any commitments initially, but took the offer for SWIS to prepare for the next level in plenty of time.

Members and staff of the boys and girls club assembled in the gym shortly after 3:30 to watch Neely, a product of the boys club, sign for his scholarship. Neely’s family and several members of Jacksonville High School’s faculty were on hand for the signing as well.

Red Devils basketball coach Victor Joyner briefly spoke to the young members of the boys and girls club before the signing, emphasizing the importance of making the right decisions.

“It basically comes down to you choosing between making the right decisions or the wrong ones,” Joyner told the kids. “Lavar has made the right decisions, and now you see him here, signing a scholarship. That means someone else is going to pay the bill for him to go to school. If he had made the wrong decisions on the court and in the classroom, he wouldn’t be sitting in front of you all today.”

Lavar grew up attending the Boys club on Graham Road. Director Larry Colvert has been at the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club for 20 years now, acting as club director for the last 13 years.

Colvert remembers Neely well from his days at the club, and stated that not a lot has changed from those days up until now.
“He was a hustler,” Colvert said. “I knew he had the talent to play for the high school back then. He never complained about anything, he just got in there and hustled. He was a star in basketball and football as far as I’m concerned.”

Neely was a standout receiver for the Red Devils football team, but basketball is his game of choice.

Almost all of the tapes sent off to colleges were basketball highlights, with interest coming from other schools in Iowa, along with a couple of letters from Texas schools.

“I didn’t send off many football tapes,” Neely said. “I feel like I did pretty good in both sports, but I just chose basketball.

“(Southwest Iowa) saw me on tape and asked me to come up there. I just want to further my career and keep playing.”

Joyner was pleased that the signing was attended by several of the boys and girls club members. Joyner took the opportunity of Neely’s signing to reach out to the youths, and show them all of the opportunities available.

“That’s why we wanted to have this here at the boys club,” Joyner said. “So these younger kids can see that there are a lot of other things out there besides being out on those streets and getting into trouble.

“I commend the staff here at the boys club. They work very diligently with these kids day-in and day-out.

“Lavar and I butted heads a little bit at first, he was a little high-strung. But eventually, he bought into a whole new system.

He had less time than a lot of the other guys because of football, so he basically had two weeks to adapt to a whole new program. I think it made him a better player.”