Durham County

Basketball junky has medical school dreams at Hillside New Tech

Hillside New Tech senior Tyler McNeill, shown here, is the Durham Public Schools' Student of the Month.
Hillside New Tech senior Tyler McNeill, shown here, is the Durham Public Schools' Student of the Month. The Herald-Sun

Tyler McNeill is a self-described basketball junky.

Although McNeill hasn’t played on a team since his middle school days, the Hillside New Tech senior remains passionate about the game.

“I’m always talking about basketball, watching basketball or looking up statistics,” said McNeill, adding that his favorite team is the Cleveland Caviliers.

His love of the sport will serve him well as he pursues his dream of becoming a sports medicine physcian. McNeill said he hopes to marry his two passions -- basketball and science -- to one day become a team doctor for an NBA team.

“That’s like the best of both worlds,” McNeill said. “It would allow me to be involved in sports but also enjoy my passion for science.”Before seeking entry into medical school, McNeill will attend UNC-Chapel Hill to study biology.

“Hopefully, somewhere down the line I can open my own [medical] practice,” McNeill said.

McNeill said his pursuit of excellence in and out of the classroom (he’s a Fifth-degree black belt in Taekwondo) has been fueled by six simple words his parents used to say to him every morning before school. Every morning in the car my mom or dad would say ‘Be the best you can be’ and eventually that phrase became ingrained in my mind and that’s been my motivation,” McNeill said.

But he said his academic success can also be credited to other family members and teachers who have worked hard to keep him on course.

“I’ve had a lot of great teachers throughout my time here who have helped me evolve into a young man, especially Ms. [Principal Tounya] Wright,” McNeill said. “She’s been on me all these years, trying to make sure I’ve always done what I’m supposed to do. She’s always had by best interest in mind, not only me, but all of the students here.”

McNeill said his parents have been excellent role models who have presented positive images for him and his younger sister. “I’ve seen how hard they work to provide for me and my sister,” McNeill said. “It’s amazing and I hope to someday be able to do that for my own family.”

Positive images are important to McNeill, especially those he can reach out and touch.

“There’s a difference between a role model and a positive image,” McNeill explained. “Role models are like Michael Jordan, but you can’t pick up the phone and call him. With positive images, they’ll always be there for you. You can pick up the phone and call them, and that’s what I hope to be someday, a positive image.”

The Hillside New Tech team that selected McNeill for the Student of the Month honor described him as a “model New Tech Scholar.”

“He collaborates well with his peers as well as teachers to ensure optimal learning for himself and his peers,” the team wrote. “He is respectful to his peers and teachers, and his peers look to him for guidance as well as affirmation.”

Greg Childress: 919-419-6645, @gchild6645

Student of the Month

Tyler McNeill

Age: 17

GPA: 4.5 weighted

School: Hillside New Tech

School activities: Vice President of the National Honor Society, Fifth degree black belt in Taekwando, student church leader.

Favorite book: “Percy Jackson & the Olympians” series

Favorite music: All music (Kendric Lamar is his favorite artist.)

Favorite movie: “Concussion”

Favorite subject: Science courses