Early in the third quarter, senior Justin McNichols took a pass from inside the paint, set his feet, and let loose on a left-handed shot that’s responsible for more points than anyone in Clearview Regional High School history.
This particular shot rolled off the rim. His record-setting basket came a few minutes later.
McNichols and the Pioneers would roll to victory over Woodrow Wilson on a recent afternoon in a holiday tournament at Haddonfield and the forecast is promising for Clearview heading into 2020. It helps, of course, to have a versatile 6-6 inside-outside threat like McNichols.
“I’ve known him for a long time, since he was in fifth grade, so to see him grow up and set this record so early in his senior season, it’s really special,” said Rob McKerchar, who took over as Clearview’s head coach before McNichols’ freshman season. “No one works harder. He’s in the gym all the time in the offseason, I don’t have to ask him to put in the hard work, he just does it himself. … And he’s a selfless kid. He wants to make the right play. … Sometimes that’s giving the ball up. And that’s what I’m so proud of — guys in his position could be selfish, but he’s not like that at all. That’s not who he is.”
McNichols leads a senior-laden cast of players eager to make a run in the competitive South Jersey Group 4 field in the coming months. Shortly after setting the school’s all-time scoring record (he currently has 1,067 points, continuing to distance himself from previous record holder Anthony Churn, 1,047) McNichols took out some time to talk with South Jersey Sports Weekly.
SJSW: What’s it mean to set a school record?
McNichols: It’s unreal. It’s crazy. I never thought I’d be able to do it, so to be able to do it, it just makes me happy.
SJSW: Do you remember your first high school points?
McNichols: Yes, I do. It was a home game, freshman year. I was shaking in the corner.
McNichols: It was against Pitman. I got the ball and the first time I touched the ball I hit a three, the first play of the game.
SJSW: What’s your favorite high school memory?
McNichols: Probably beating our rival Kingsway my sophomore year. I had 27 (points). It was a big game, everyone was there. It’s probably the biggest game I’ve ever been in.
SJSW: This team has a lot of seniors, a lot of guys who have been playing together for a while. What makes you think this team can make a run in South Jersey Group 4?
McNichols: Just because we have the chemistry to be able to do it, we all know how we play. Other teams don’t have heavy seniors, so I think we’ll be able to make a run, hopefully.
SJSW: When did you start playing basketball?
McNichols: I’ve been playing since I was like 6.
SJSW: Who taught you the game?
McNichols: My mom (Tracy). She got me to play basketball because I was tall.
SJSW: Who do you get your height from?
McNichols: My dad (Ken). He’s 6-4.
SJSW: Do you have any brothers or sisters?
McNichols: Yeah, my brother Kenny graduated (from Clearview) in 2013.
SJSW: If you and your brother played one-on-one right now who would win?
McNichols: Right now, me.
SJSW: If you could pick any player from another South Jersey team to add to Clearview, who would you pick?
McNichols: There’s a kid at Cedar Creek, Najee Coursey, I played with him at AAU. He’s really good.
SJSW: Let’s get back to your team. Who’s the best shooter on the team?
McNichols: Oooohhhh. Today it was Joey Reiling.
SJSW: Who’s the toughest?
McNichols: Dom Thomas.
SJSW: How about the funniest?
McNichols: Joey Reiling.
McNichols: Probably Joey again.
SJSW: What are you doing for college?
McNichols: I think I’m majoring in business but I might go in undecided.
SJSW: Where are you going?
McNichols: I haven’t picked a school yet but I really like Ramapo College in North Jersey. They’ve been to a couple of my games.
SJSW: Are you bingeing anything on TV right now?
McNichols: “Breaking Bad.”
SJSW: Great pick, my all-time favorite. Do you have a favorite movie?
McNichols: “Project X.”
SJSW: Do you have a favorite pro player?
McNichols: Russell Westbrook.
SJSW: Favorite college player?
McNichols: It was (former Duke star) Zion Williamson (now with the New Orleans Pelicans).
SJSW: If we’re at the state championship game in March, what song do you want to come out to when your name is announced?
McNichols: Honestly, I’d want to come out to some Drake.