By Charles Vanegas
Whether it was in a front yard, backyard, on the street or inside with a mini-hoop, Adika Peter-McNeilly was always getting roughed-up or dunked on as a kid — either by one of his three older brothers or several older cousins.
“He was unfortunately the smallest, so he was always the victim,” says cousin Ryan McNeilly, 26, who played for the Rams from 2006-11.
To say Peter-McNeilly comes from a basketball family would be an understatement. His brother Jamie McNeilly was an all-star at the University of New Orleans in the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), played professionally in Germany and is now an assistant coach with Virginia Tech and the Canadian Junior National Team. Another brother, Jay McNeilly, played one season with the Rams, led Blessed Mother Teresa C.H.S. to two provincial championships as a head coach before becoming an assistant coach at York University, while his uncle was an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) all-star, also at York in 1976-77.
So it wasn’t a surprise that Peter-McNeilly became a star himself.
But coming to Ryerson was not always a guarantee as he was highly sought after.
“Obviously I tried to put a little plug in for Ryerson. I told him ‘the OUA is a great place to play,'” says Ryan, who was also an assistant head coach at Ryerson. “And you’re not always guaranteed to get playing time in the States, but I said do what is best for you.”
Peter-McNeilly spent a year at Clarendon College in Texas with hopes of an NCAA scholarship after high school. But he quickly realized the U.S. route wasn’t for him as he missed his support system in Toronto.
“I’d be playing games and no one could watch me. Games weren’t streamed so all they could go to were box scores,” he says.
“It hurts you as a player because you want to play for your family.”
In April 2013, Peter-McNeilly sent Ryerson head coach Roy Rana a text message, “I don’t really like it out here, I’m thinking of transferring home.” Having missed out on him the year before, Rana says he “was all over that.” Within a month, Peter-McNeilly was playing in preseason games for Ryerson. He fit in right away with the Rams game plan and he consistently started throughout the season.
Early in the season, Rana had noticed some technical issues with Peter-McNeilly’s shot. After altering his delivery, Peter-McNeilly began to see dividends, finishing the 2013-14 season eleventh in CIS three-point shooting with 45.3% – 17.4 higher than his numbers at Clarendon College.
“He’s a good shooter, he’s always been a good shooter, we just had to make some minor adjustments in his delivery and give him the reps he needed and the rest was pretty easy,” says Rana.
But it wasn’t until a game against Carleton — winners of 10 of the last 12 national championships — late last season that he truly began living up to the family name.
That night he posted 26 points and shot 5-for-7 from the 3-point line in a 71-68 loss.
“It certainly showed everybody that he can be an elite guard in our league, there’s no question about that,” says Rana. “It was a little bit of a coming out party, for people who maybe hadn’t seen … how good he really was.”
Peter-McNeilly went on to be named to the OUA all-star second team and was later chosen as the team representative on the new Ryerson-branded team bus.
With Ryerson already earning a berth as hosts of this season’s national championships, the second-year sociology student looks forward to being able to chase a title in front of the family who made him the player he is – in a recent preseason game vs. Dalhousie, Peter McNeilly says at least 10 family members came to support him.
“Coming home and seeing your mom, dad, cousins [and] brothers in the stands, it motivates you.”