The Smith Mountain Lake Christian Academy boys basketball team has seen a good amount of success from last season to the start of this season. Last year featured a trip to the VACA state semifinals and this year is showing the Ospreys sitting at 3-0.
One of the key contributors for the Ospreys has been senior forward Mason Neighbors, who has been a steady workhorse down low for the Ospreys. This is Neighbors second year as a student-athlete at SMLCA, transferring from Parkway Christian Academy after his sophomore year.
Neighbors came in the same year athletic director and boys basketball coach Mike Greathouse did, and it wasn’t until a basketball camp in the summer of 2019 when Greathouse had his first glimpse of Neighbors and the rest of the team.
“I thought, you know, this kid is really raw fundamentally, but he is a workhorse,” Greathouse said. “He’s one that’s going to do anything you ask, and he’s going to give you 110 percent every time he’s out there.”
Greathouse added that Neighbors still brings that same energy but has improved his skills from last year as he is a threat on the post, beyond the arc, and being tenacious crashing the glass.
Looking at his stats from last season, it’s actually a scary thought that he’s improved. Neighbors was the second leading scorer on the team, averaging 14.8 points per game. He also averaged nine rebounds a game, falling just shy of a double-double.
His contributions led him to being named second-team All-Southwest District. Neighbors is currently averaging just under a double-double through the first three games of his senior year, contributing 12 PPG and nine rebounds. He also mentioned that he doesn’t pay attention to his stats, but he is more concerned with how the team is getting involved, especially on the offensive side.
“What I would really like to see happen for our team is to see people being more comfortable with the ball and being more comfortable to take some shots. Not to have a bad shot selection, but just have the confidence to shoot it and think it will go in,” Neighbors said.
Former VACA first-team All-State and now assistant coach for the SMLCA boys team, Thomas Dean, said Neighbors was one of the best teammates to have on and off the floor, and he was very glad to have him on the floor with him his senior year during the 2019-2020 season.
“On the court, he was a beast that helped me out a lot. He’s also a very smart basketball player, so it was nice to have another dominant big man,” Dean said.
Dean was part of nine seniors and was one of the captains on last year’s state semifinals team. Because of this, Neighbors didn’t have to be a leader right away and could focus on finding his role on his new team. Dean saw much more in Neighbors than a role player, though, and he wasn’t shy to tell him. Neighbors mentioned that Dean told him midway through last season that he was the spark plug for the team to get going.
There’s more to this story in the current issue of the Smith Mountain Eagle newspaper. Pick up a copy or subscribe at www.smithmountaineagle.com/subscriber_services to view the full article in the print and/or e-edition version.