CHARLOTTESVILLE — Andrew Meneely didn’t struggle much with the curveball. It was the heater that gave him fits.
A former catcher and middle infielder at Taylor University, Meneely jokes about his laboring lumber when he reminisces about his two-year collegiate baseball career after coming out of Christian Academy of Louisville in 1997.
While never destined for the big leagues, he admits, the exhilaration he felt from scooping up a grounder or rifling the ball on a line from the backstop remains. It just has a new outlet now.
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“I might have had a good gun, but honestly, I kind of lacked the bat speed,” the now 38-year-old basketball coach laughed. “Really, I’ve just always loved college and high school athletics, being involved. It was a huge part of my development growing up, and I want to give back through coaching.”
Since 2000, Meneely has found opportunities to do exactly that with nearly eight years of college basketball coaching experience, leading him to Eastern Hancock, where he will take over the helm of the girls’ varsity program.
“The one thing about coaching is the investment. The investment in the team,” Meneely remarked. “There’s nothing like coaching. To have the chance to help this team this year is exciting to me.”
Meneely’s hiring was approved by the Eastern Hancock School board earlier this month, but as is his routine, he did his research long before applying for the job.
Notified of the position through his coaching network, Meneely was well-versed in the Royals talent after officiating basketball in the area the past few years. Once he contacted Eastern Hancock Athletic Director Aaron Spaulding, the rest took care of itself.
“He’s had a lot of good experience at the college level, and any time you have that kind of experience, it draws your eye,” Spaulding said. “The thing that really pushed him over the top was every time I called one of the college coaches he’s worked with I couldn’t get anyone to say one bad thing. We’re happy to have him on board.”
Meneely was a multi-sport athlete in high school. He played baseball, was a point guard on the basketball team and dabbled in soccer.
On the diamond both in high school and college, the game was instinctive, he said, but hoops is where he had to be more “cerebral,” a challenge which has molded him into a lifelong student of the game.
He began his hoops studies while attending Taylor and shortly after graduating in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications. Meneely worked in Taylor University’s sports information department as an undergraduate, providing him time to learn from legendary men’s basketball coach Paul Patterson and women’s coach Tena Krause.
“Being around coach Patterson and coach Krause, seeing the practices they were putting together was a fantastic experience,” Meneely said. “It was impactful seeing coaches of that caliber, teachers, who really taught the game.”
In 2003, Meneely embarked on his own coaching career as a men’s assistant at Lincoln Christian College in Illinois for one season. There he handled recruiting, scouting and helped guide the team to its first regional championship and (National Christian College Athletic Association) NCCAA-II Final Four finish.
He moved on to become an assistant women’s basketball coach at The College of Wooster in Ohio for two years with the team reaching the postseason each season.
Before returning to Taylor as a women’s assistant coach in 2012 for one year, Meneely was an assistant coach at Pensacola State College with the men’s team from 2007 to 2010.
In the interim, he earned his master’s degree in kinesiology at the Univerity of Texas – Permian Basin in 2011.
Despite being away from coaching the past two years, he stayed active and enthusiastic, a part of his personal philosophy he wants to spread to his players.
“I don’t like using don’ts or can’ts. I don’t like hearing those words. Usually, it’s not ‘I can’t,’ it’s ‘I haven’t yet.’ You never really find out until you try,” Meneely said. “Hopefully, while I’m here, I give these kids enough opportunities to find out what they can do.”
The key to success are avoiding the three Ls.
“I wouldn’t say they’re really pillars of my coaching philosophy, but if you do them, it’s a great way of getting on my bad side,” Meneely said with a grin. “Don’t be late, don’t be lazy, don’t be lethargic. If we never have to deal with those, it’s going to be a fun year.”
Meneely replaces former Eastern Hancock head coach Shari Doud, who resigned this month after leading the team to a 17-8 finish and a sectional championship appearance during her only season in 2015-16.
The Royals reached the title game in two of the past three years, but they have yet to end their sectional title drought, which has spanned 14 seasons. Several of the key returning players hope Meneely’s energy will push them farther.
“I think our grade is ready to get that sectional title,” Eastern Hancock senior Emiley Carlton said. “Everyone is motivated with him as coach because of his background and coaching experience at college. We haven’t had that before.”
The Royals already have talent and strong senior leadership in place for Meneely’s first season, including Carlton, Leah Ferguson, Shelby King and Peyton West.
Carlton led the team with 9.8 points per game and 4.8 rebounds last season. Sophomore Haley Best was second in scoring (8.4 ppg) with tremendous shooting range, and Ferguson averaged 6.3 points.
“We have a good group coming back, one that was a hair within the sectional championship last year (losing to Triton Central 36-34),” Spaulding said. “We wanted to get the best coach in place this year to help in their pursuit. Meneely is a great fit.”
Eastern Hancock opens the season on Nov. 5 at home against Hagerstown at 7:30 p.m.