O'Neill passes on H.S. All-Star basketball game to travel with Rapids
Commerce City, Colo. - Colorado Rapids Academy forward Shane O'Neill had managed playing his favorite sports so well, that he was named one of the top Colorado high school players in both basketball and soccer after excelling in both at Fairview High in Boulder.
But in his heart, he's always known that soccer is his true love, which made Thursday's decision a no-brainer.
O'Neill was one of 20 high school basketball players in Colorado named to play in The Show – the state’s annual high-school basketball All-Star game which will be played Friday night at Pepsi Center in downtown Denver.
However, when the Ireland-native was asked by the Colorado Rapids coaching staff Thursday to travel with the first-team to Utah to play in Sunday's MLS Reserve League match against Real Salt Lake, he called The Show organizers to inform them he would be opting out of the game.
"Obviously soccer is my 100 percent focus," O'Neill said of his decision. "When I had the chance to go (with the Rapids), it wasn't really a tough decision for me at all. I want to be around the team as much as possible."
After leading his school with 19 goals and 8 assists as a forward in soccer, he then averaged 15 points and 8 rebounds a game as a shooting guard in basketball, leading Fairview to the state's Sweet 16. Media across Colorado and representatives of the Denver Nuggets identified O'Neill among the best basketball players in the state.
"It was going to be the top players in Colorado, so obviously I'm a little disappointed that I won't be playing in it," he said. "But, I get to see what it's like to be a pro for a weekend. I was honored to be chosen for The Show, but soccer is my focus and I wasn't going to turn down this trip."
O'Neill is one of four Rapids Academy and Home Grown-protected players that traveled to Utah, along with Dillon Serna, Ricardo Perez and Isaac Martinez. Only Serna has appeared for the Reserves so far this year, though the other three were all unused substitutes in last Monday's 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire reserves.
The Rapids U-18s are riding a 10-game undefeated streak and sit atop the Central Conference at 7-0-3. The team is ranked 4th in the country on ESPN High School's POLL. Last Saturday, O'Neil's goal helped lead the U-18's to a 3-2 win over Sporting Kansas City's U-18s.
While enjoying both sports, O'Neill always knew soccer with his favorite. He has signed a national letter of intent to continue playing soccer at national powerhouse and 2010 NCAA College Cup champion University of Virginia next fall.
“Basketball was a lot of fun,” he said. “But I always knew that that I wanted to play soccer in college, and more.”
In February, O'Neill was named Colorado’s Gatorade Boys Soccer Player of the Year for the 2011 season. That came on the heels of playing in the National High School All-American Game in Birmingham, Alabama in December, where he was named the Most Valuable Player for the West Team.