Making a case for Ka’Nyah

Published 2:44 pm Tuesday, January 17, 2023

I’m glad I left my comfy couch Friday night.

If I had given into the lure of an early end to a very hectic work week, I would have missed one of the most entertaining sports evenings I’ve had since coming to Washington going on four years ago.

It’s always fun when rivals meet and the Northside-Southside matches are no exception. The Anchor Bowl is a fall highlight and the hardwood matchups don’t usually disappoint.

This year, there was more drama in the girls contest because both teams are good and Southside’s superstar senior Ka’Nyah O’Neal is putting up impressive numbers.

The Panthers had defended their home court the last two years with double-digit victories with a rowdy crowd providing a partisan backdrop.

There’s no better way to quiet a crowd than to dominate their team and that’s what O’Neal did Friday.

She drained three-pointers from all over the floor in the first half, including deep ones just before the first quarter and halftime horn sounded.

She had 29 points at halftime and her team was up by 22 points.

O’Neal drove to the basket more often in the second half and when she didn’t make her shots, she was fouled.

Northside mounted a bit of a rally in the second half, but O’Neal answered with a big basket every time to score 29 more points in the second half for a grand total of 58 in an 81-68 victory.

58 points in 32 minutes. Think about that. That’s 72 in a 40-minute college game and 86 in the NBA.

According to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s website, O’Neal’s outburst is the sixth most points ever scored in a girls game in this state.

Mikayla Boykin, who played at Clinton HS, scored 62 in 2016, then posted 63 the following year before signing with Duke University. Between injuries and COVID-19 she didn’t play as much as planned, but made the All-Conference USA second team at Charlotte her fifth year.

Former Terry Sanford HS of Fayetteville standout Shea Ralph scored 61 in 1995 before going onto an All-American and national championship career at UConn. She is in her second year as Vanderbilt’s head coach.

Tracie Taylor of Southwest Onslow (1987) and Ann Ellis of South Iredell (1977) scored 60.

Taylor played at UNC-Pembroke and later won two state championships coaching 71st High School in Fayetteville.

Information was scant on Ellis and it’s hard to tell if she played college basketball.

Impressive company, no doubt, so the natural question to ask is how many Division 1 offers does O’Neal have.

The answer is none. Zero. Zip. Nada. Hard to believe that none of the 351 Division 1 women’s basketball programs in the country and the 18 in-state schools have made her an offer she wouldn’t refuse.

Not only did the 5’8 guard who can shoot, rebound, pass, dribble, hustle, lead and do pretty much anything else a coach would want break her own program record Friday, she is 35 points away from 2,000 for her career and 89 rebounds away from 1,000.

I’ve seen plenty of D1 women’s basketball over the years when I was the Duke radio play-by-play guy and this kid has earned the chance to play somewhere.

Maybe coaches don’t know about her. Hard to believe in the internet age, but maybe. So, here’s what we can do. Look up five schools who play D1 women’s basketball and email their recruiting coordinator. Not the head coach, because they’re probably too busy to read something from somebody they don’t know.

Find the recruiting person, and write them a short, polite note informing them that Ka’Nyah O’Neal of Southside HS in Chocowinity, NC is among the top scorers in state history. Her grades are great and so is her character. Just letting you know that this girl can play.

Meanwhile, go see her in person. It’s a much better show than what you will watch from your couch.