Neal Begovich growing into his game
by Kevin McCarthy
Like football, basketball is also a game of inches and St. Ignatius' Neal Begovich is winning. Just as important as his height increase in the last two years is his increased weight and strength plus the advancing of his skill set.
Beginning as a 5-foot-10, 115 pound freshmen, Begovich shot up to 6-foot-4 as a sophomore. As he enters his junior season, he measures 6-foot-8. As Begovich noted, it's the same height of his late father Daniel who played at California and earned Most Valuable Player honors in 1977. "My Dad died when I was nine and it motivated my brothers and me to follow in his footsteps for him. It's like he's watching over us. I wear #21 because that was my Dad's number."
What does Begovich see as his best basketball skill? "I'm a knockdown shooter who can stretch the floor. I try and focus on being a guard because that will increase my versatility. I'm getting more athletic everyday and want to guard multiple positions."
St. Ignatius Coach Rob Marcaletti offered, "Neal epitomizes what SI basketball is all about. He is an unbelievable kid who constantly has a fire burning in his belly to improve, grow and give his best effort on and off of the court. Neal's length, athletic ability, high basketball IQ and versatility to play and guard multiple positions on the court is really going to help us. I expect him to be an important impact player for us this year."
He played junior varsity as a freshman and sophomore, captaining both squads. Begovich was pulled up to the varsity at the end of last season and enjoyed the opportunity to play with his brother Daniel who is currently hoping to walk-on at Stanford.
That ties in with one of Begovich's best basketball moments. "When we won in the state quarterfinals, my brother and I were jumping into the stands. It felt great. I also played varsity tennis last year, following in the footsteps of my two older brothers. Playing varsity tennis with my brother Daniel was a dream come true. Our team won back-to-back state championships and the footwork skills from tennis really pay off with basketball."
Winning the Coaches Award at the Stanford Basketball Camp in the second week of June is another highlight. Also, in Las Vegas last July as part of the Adidas Uprising, "we started pool play 0-3. But we won five straight games and got to play in the Cashman Center. We were a couple of free throws away from winning it."
Another experience to savor was "going to Taiwan this summer [with St. Ignatius]. It was my first moment playing overseas and we were on national television there. It was an unforgettable experience. We've been putting in a lot of hard work, developing as a team and it helped bond us together."
The front yard is the site of Begovich and his brother going at it one-on-one as they grew up. "Sometimes it would end with a wrestling match. It made us play tough with a chip on our shoulders." Now he's ready to bring that to the varsity team in McCullough Gymnasium on the St. Ignatius campus.
Begovich joined Team Arsenal for the summer. "I want to thank Kelvin Potts for giving me the platform to play before big crowds and good competition."
His recruiting has picked up as a result and he recently completed a series of unofficial visits to Harvard, Princeton and Holy Cross. "I'm really interested in top tier academic programs and I have a list of schools I'm focused on."