COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Sean McNeil’s journey to playing every game of the 2022-23 season for Ohio State is remarkable.
Even more remarkable was who stood by his side at the Buckeyes’ senior night Wednesday, because of what happened Nov. 30 during a game against Duke.
“Surreal moment to be in Cameron Indoor Stadium,” Sean’s father, Jeff, said. “One of the best venues in the country to watch a basketball game, much less watch your own son.”
Sean was checking back into the game in the first half when he saw a team of medics attending to somebody near the court.
“I knew where my family was sitting, and the only thing I saw was my dad’s girlfriend walking out the door, so I knew it was somebody involved in my family,” Sean said. “I had no idea what happened until after the game.”
What happened was life-altering.
“I just started feeling really bad,” Jeff McNeil said. “I tried to just settle down, take it easy a little, but it just kept getting worse.”
Jeff was experiencing a massive heart attack.
“I knew,” he said. “All the signs were there. The pressure, the tingling down the arms, the numbness, the sweating, so I said ‘I need some help.'”
Luckily for Jeff, it was just a two-minute drive from Cameron Indoor Stadium to Duke University Hospital, where he underwent life-saving surgery.
“That particular type of heart attack is what they call the widow-maker,” Jeff said. “Very few people live to tell about it and here I am. Just very, very blessed and very fortunate to be where I was at that particular moment.”
That moment allowed him to be a part of Sean’s senior night, an improbable night for Jeff and his son alike.
Sean was a standout at Cooper High School in Union, Kentucky, but didn’t have many college offers. He decided to commit to Division II Bellarmine in Louisville, which lasted less than two weeks.
He spent a year away from basketball not knowing if he’d ever step on a college court again.
That time away allowed him to realize how much he loved the game, so much so he enrolled at Sinclair Community College in Dayton. Sean scored 40 points in his first game and never looked back, earning All-America honors. His play drew attention from West Virginia, the first major Division I school to recruit him.
Three years playing for the Mountaineers led him to one season at Ohio State. It’s anyone’s guess where Jeff McNeil would have been on Nov. 30 if Sean never came to Columbus. But he did, and his life was saved in a butterfly effect that put him inside Duke’s storied basketball mecca, just down the road from one of the country’s best cardiology hospitals.
“We were talking about it actually upstairs before the game just about the health he’s in now. It’s unbelievable. The heart attack was as massive and extreme as it can get. We’re all happy he’s here,” Sean said. “It’s good that he’s in the health that he’s in now cause I can still kick his butt on the golf course.”
Jeff saw Sean and the Buckeyes beat No. 21 Maryland 73-62, their first back-to-back wins since beating Alabama A&M and Northwestern on Dec. 29 and Jan. 1. It’s been a less than ideal year for the Buckeyes who are at risk of suffering their first losing season since the 2003-04 season.
After the game, Sean acknowledged the Buckeyes are “getting hot at the right time.” OSU making some madness happen in March is unlikely, but crazier things have happened. Just ask the McNeil family.