O’Neal plays for family pride


Malachi O’Neal, 12, attempts to block a Burke player at the varsity basketball game on Nov. 29, 2018. North beat Burke 52 to 44. Photo by Gabby Push

Gabby Push, Sports Editor

At the age of three Malachi O’Neal began a journey that would lead him to a life of basketball. Beginning his career at the YMCA, then moved around to several outside of school teams such as, All Stars, Warriors, Team Nebraska Express, Omaha Elite, All Iowa Attack, and Martin Brothers O’Neal truly is a basketball player that could say ‘Ball is life’ as he has been playing since he was old enough to hold a ball.

Until between the sixth and seventh grades, O’Neal did not take the sport too seriously. It was at that point that O’Neal realized he possessed a skill most people did not have. Being a left-handed ball player gave O’Neal different abilities than some of his right-handed partners.

According to players and several sports sites (such as ESPN and Oklahoma City Thunder team) left-handed basketball players have an advantage with shooting and an element of surprise. Players are used to opposing a right-handed opponent. Because of this, left-handed players can get out of blocked situations using their left instead of right hand.

“Being left-handed is different because not a lot of people are left-handed, and majority of players are used to someone being right handed. Left-handed players are usually [harder] to stop,” said O’Neal.

O’Neal has had a strong support system his whole basketball career. His grandpa, Wilbert McDowell, has made an effort to always be there for O’Neal. McDowell has traveled as far as Kansas City and Iowa to watch and support O’Neal. McDowell does not miss one of his grandson’s games unless it’s extremely far away.

Family has not only played a big part in his support system, it also is what helps fuel O’Neal’s inspiration.

“My inspiration will probably be my deceased members that were close. Like Leonna (a childhood friend), JB [Jim B] (former equipment manager at North), Wiley, as well as my grandmother Mae Belle. I just have way more faith in everything I do on and off the court,” said O’Neal.

An advantage to playing basketball is that O’Neal has begun to receive offers to play at the college level. O’Neal has already received an offer from Emporia State to play basketball next year, but he is hoping to receive more offers because he is considering all his options.

“I just want to be able to get my school paid for. I could care less about the league but if that bridge comes, I’ll probably go,” said O’Neal.

O’Neal is unafraid of his future and knows that no matter what he’ll be on a path to success.

“Nothing scares me [more] than an injury and me having to sit and maybe losing a scholarship. But I fear no one so the competition piece will work its way out,” said O’Neal.