CASHION — Coaching his first summer league basketball game at Cashion last June, John Hardaway watched Joe Neece score 20 points. The coach knew right away he had found a key cog in his future offense.
Last Friday and Saturday, Neece filled that role in ideal fashion, scoring 17, then 18 points in back-to-back Class A district playoff victories to move the unranked Wildcats into the regional winner's bracket and earn The Oklahoman's Boys Basketball Player of the Week honors.
In Saturday's 57-54 win over Cimarron, Neece came up big at crucial times, scoring four points late to keep Cashion on top. He had four 3-pointers in the game as well.
“He's played really well in the second half of the season,” said Hardaway, who came to Cashion from Morrison. “He can get really hot. If he hits one or two 3s, he's liable to hit four or five, and he's had multiple games with four or more 3s.”
Neece, a 6-foot-1 shooting guard, averages 12.5 points per game to lead a balanced offense with five players averaging at least seven.
“This is my ninth year as a head coach and he's got the quickest catch-and-release of anybody I've coached,” Hardaway said. “We've been working with him getting to the free throw line. He's so athletic, and he can slash in there really well. He's getting to where he doesn't just depend on the catch-and-shoot 3.”
Only a junior, Hardaway is excited to see what growth might be ahead for Neece next season.
“He's a fantastic kid and an extremely hard worker,” Hardaway said. “He has a tremendous amount of potential.”
Cashion will host Okarche in regionals Thursday night. Okarche beat the Wildcats twice in hard-fought regular-season matchups.