The play wound up in a missed layup in a game that was already a blowout, so it shouldn't have been a big deal.

But it said volumes about Shorewood's Now All-Suburban freshman guard Khamya McNeal as she turned in a dazzling combination spin move/crossover dribble to split two Brown Deer defenders in a January win for the Greyhounds.

She made it all look so easy as she finished with a season-high 36 points that night. Like she's been doing it almost all of her life, which in fact she has. But she made it clear later that a lot of effort went into perfecting such a move.

"My dad played high school basketball, but I got into on my own when I think I was about 5 playing on 6-foot hoops," she said. "I started with the Shorewood Rec Department when I was in second grade and then I started playing AAU when I was in third grade. So I have put a lot of work into this."

Enough so that she admits that she drove her parents a little crazy bouncing a ball around the house when she was small.

But it has all paid off.

The 5-foot-7 point guard, who models herself off of Cleveland all-star guard Kyrie Irving, is to say the least precocious, a master of a million moves with the ability to get to the basket as quick as a heartbeat or to step back and deftly drain a 3-pointer when needed.

Even at her young age, her passing skills can be breathtaking, and both she and Greyhound coach Jeff Eimers admitted that in the early days of practice this season there were more than a couple of passes that ricocheted off of teammates' foreheads or hands.

However, with her ever-present smile and laugh leading the way, the joyful at heart McNeal quickly ingratiated herself to the team and helped the rebuilding Greyhounds turn in a solid 16-9 record this winter.

It was part of a growing process, as McNeal stepped into a program that needed a fresh infusion of talent after three-time Now All-Suburban forward Jada Stackhouse graduated last year.

McNeal came through in a large way as she averaged 20.5 points per game (512 points) on 56 percent shooting with 24 3-pointers, displaying a remarkable ability to get the foul line (129-of-207, 62 percent). She had 119 assists (5.4 per game), with an amazing 92 steals (4.2 per game) and 12 blocked shots. She also grabbed 4.3 rebounds per game (94).

Eimers said it was amazing how McNeal was able to lift the team this season as he became impressed with her maturity that much belied her very young age.

"She is absolutely fearless and never lets anything bother her," said Eimers. "Teams simply could not press her. People tried to take her out of her game by getting physical with her, but she thrives on finishing through contact. We asked her to do a lot and she delivered."

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McNeal, who has as noted has been playing AAU ball for quite some time (Playground Elite is her current team) and had fun competing for the Atwater Elementary School team in Shorewood, said she couldn't wait for high school.

"It didn't take me long to get comfortable," she said, "because I knew most of the girls already. But it was a big difference coming up from AAU, where I always seemed to be the youngest player out there. Here (with the Greyhounds), they expected me to step up and try to get the whole team involved."

She relished that, as well as the new found competition. The Greyhounds, who had won four Woodland Conference East Division titles in a row heading into this season, found themselves in deep trouble after a tough stretch in mid-late January that saw them drop five of seven games, including tough ones to eventual division champ and state division 2 runner-up Cudahy and divisional rival Whitnall.

An injury to starting forward Olivia Kessenich, that cost the thin Greyhounds a key starter for a few games, did not help.

But they got healthier and beat Cudahy the second time around and also rocked Whitnall and Greenfield in second go-arounds after they had lost the first games to those foes.

McNeal adapted each time, being a creator one night and a scorer the next. The highwater mark of the season for her and the team was a 26-point effort in the WIAA D2 regional final win at Pius, a victory that came just months after the Popes had drilled Shorewood in December.

"That was such a big confidence booster," said McNeal. "We got a lead and then kept it. We just brought it all together that night and became pretty tight by the end of the season."

A tough season-ending sectional loss to Tosa East has stoked the fires of the Greyhounds, who return almost all the key parts from this team.

McNeal, who has an AAU tournament coming up in a few weeks, said she can't wait for next season to begin. She wants to work on a lot of things between now and then such as improving both her mid-range jumper and 3-point shot, making her even more dangerous.

Her opponents are not thrilled at that idea.

"She is really something," said Brown Deer coach Scott Laurent after that late January game.