By Daniele Franceshi
Special to The Ryersonian
Adika Peter-McNeilly is ready for his close-up. Pitted as the successor to former perennial all-star Jahmal Jones, Peter-McNeilly is embracing his role as a leader and playmaker for the Ryerson Rams men’s basketball team.
“Jahmal Jones was phenomenal in his five years and I had the pleasure of playing with him for two, so it’s just (about) taking as much information when he was here and incorporating it into my own style,” said Peter-McNeilly following a recent Rams practice.
“Everybody plays differently so I’m not going to be nervous and I’m not going to be scared. I’m just going to play basketball and do what I do best.”
Peter-McNeilly is without question the Rams most prolific offensive weapon. Last season, the sociology major finished third in team scoring, averaging 12.8 points per game, while shooting 48 per cent from beyond the arc.
According to interim head coach Patrick Tatham, Peter-McNeilly will assume an expanded role within the Rams offence this season. “I mean, since his first year, he’s been critical for our team,” said Tatham, graciously heaping praise on his star floor general. “Even with Jahmal Jones last year, he was still big for our team, and this year he’s going to be relied on heavily. I just think he’s ready to take over.”
Prior to joining the Rams in 2013, Peter-McNeilly spent one year at Clarendon College in Texas. It was a valuable learning experience for the Scarborough native, a tumultuous cross-country voyage that provided him with a renewed sense of optimism and a new-found appreciation for parental oversight.
“It was a lot of maturity, a lot of living on your own,” said Peter-McNeilly. “You’re far away from home … I lived my whole life and it was mom buying me groceries, dad taking me everywhere, but now it’s like, you have to live on your own.
“You have to do your own laundry, make your own bed,” he added. “As much as it’s simple stuff, those are the kind of things that you take for granted when you’re living at home.”
This past summer, Peter-McNeilly was one of 12 CIS players selected to represent Canada at the Summer Universiade in Gwangju, South Korea. Canada’s all-CIS squad fared quite well at the event, finishing seventh out of 20 teams.
The tournament was Peter-McNeilly’s first taste of international basketball, a unique experience that elicited emotions of national pride and personal achievement.
“It was amazing. Being able to represent your country, you know, have Canada on the front and have your last name on the back, is a privilege,” gushed Peter-McNeilly. “Not everybody can say that they’ve played for their country and just playing with a bunch of guys in the CIS, basically the top guys in the CIS, and me being looked upon as one of the top players in the CIS, was a really good feeling.”
Peter-McNeilly, formerly an understudy to the aforementioned Jones, is now a mentor. In fact, the six-foot-three, third-year student-athlete enters this season as one of Ryerson’s longest-tenured players.
The Rams roster is littered with young talent, posing a significant challenge for interim bench boss Tatham.
Peter-McNeilly, however, is confident that the Rams, despite being a youthful group, will emerge as championship contenders in the OUA. “We’re going to be a team that has to outwork other teams,” declared Peter-McNeilly. “People might say we’re a lot smaller and we have an interim head coach, but everyone’s been in this position before. Every year, at the beginning of the season, I’m always excited, especially with this group, because of the dynamics of the team. We have a lot of new guys so it’s just a lot of teaching, but I’m definitely excited.”
Patience, Peter-McNeilly says, will be key as the Rams prepare to embark on the five-month journey that is the CIS season. “It is a process. We are going to get better,” assured Peter-McNeilly. “It’s a young team, so we just have to be patient with it.”
The Rams men’s basketball team tips off its 2015-16 campaign Nov. 4 against the University of Toronto.
This article was published in The Ryersonian on Nov. 4, 2015.