Motivated by family and love of game, York Suburban basketball standout sets lofty goals

DANTE GREEN
717-505-5418/@ydsports
  • Avant Sweeney is a basketball standout for York Suburban High School.
  • In the final game of his junior season, he scored a career-high 38 points.
  • Sweeney averaged 16 points, six rebounds and for assists per game this past season.

“I still want to make it to fulfill our (family’s) dreams. Basketball has become something I love. I eat and sweat basketball.”

York Suburban's Avant Sweeney, seen here in a file photo, scored 38 points in his final game of the season recently.

Those words speak volumes about the way Avant Sweeney feels about basketball — and family. Indeed, the two are entwined for the star York Suburban player with NBA dreams,  who surprised many with a 38-point game last week.

Sweeney plays basketball not only for his love of the sport, but also for the promises he made to those closest to him.

He vowed to finish the job started by his grandfather and father, both former high school players who never got to play in college. He dreams of taking his game to the NCAA Division I level, and hopefully one day to the NBA.

“I think growing up he’s seen the trophies I've had, and he wants to complete the mission I never did,” said Avant's father, Rashaad Sweeney, who played for York High.

>> Please consider subscribing to support local journalism.

Avant is not too far from accomplishing his first dream after completing a successful junior season that featured several standout performances to end the year, culminating in a 38-point explosion in the final game of his season. It was the best game of his career and a performance his head coach, Mitch Kemp, couldn’t believe he had witnessed. 

More:Avant Sweeney erupts for 38 points in York Suburban win; other Tuesday boys' basketball

“It was so exciting to watch; it might have been one of the best performances I've ever witnessed," Kemp said. "I was so impressed with the nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals as well. He made all the right plays. It was a special game to watch."

Avant was nearly unstoppable, hitting 3-pointers and finishing strong drives to the basket.

He concluded a superb junior season averaging 16 points, six rebounds and four assists per game. Those numbers are indicative of a player who had not only grown physically and from a skills aspect but had also learned the mental part of the game.

More:York Suburban teams enjoy super Saturday; other weekend basketball highlights

“I’ve got my mind together,” Avant said. “Mentally I've got a lot stronger because of my coach."

Kemp, he said, would always tell him to be calm and patient.

"A few years ago, I would get mad at myself if I wasn’t hitting shots," Avant said. "At the start, I wasn’t always listening. Toward the end of the season, I finally understood what he meant.” 

York Suburban's Avant Sweeney, left, and West York's Mark Walker react at the end of a game on Dec. 11. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Avant plays basketball year-round, including AAU ball for Central Pa. Elite, and can always be found near a gym. Kemp kept a watchful eye over his 6-foot, 2-inch standout. 

“He works extremely hard, and he loves basketball,” Kemp said. “It’s the only sport he plays. He’s amazing at attacking the basket. When he is hitting his outside shots, he is almost impossible to stop.

Kemp believes Avant is one of the best attackers in the county, and when he puts it all together? "An all-around player." 

Avant Sweeny is shown with his younger brother, Kalib.

His family is his motivation: Avant's drive to make it as far as he can in basketball kept him in the gym. The shooting guard's biggest motivation, however, has always been his family.

His father, Rashaad, always told him: “Stay focused and stay out of trouble. Don’t let anyone or anything hinder you.”

It's a code that Avant adhered to, achieving good grades and focusing on basketball. He is striving to be an example for his entire family that, despite circumstances, you can still find a way to succeed. 

“He wants to set examples for his younger siblings," the elder Sweeney said. "He has a lot of potential and it's the start of what he has to become. There is more to come, and he just must bring it to the forefront. His brother, grandfather and his mother, we are at every game cheering for him.” 

Sweeney's father played for a number of youth clubs across York and left a mark that his son hopes to imprint on his own career. Rashaad Sweeney believes his son has advantages he never had.

"I just wanted to run around after school with my friends," Rashaad Sweeney said. "I wanted to be a kid. I didn't have someone in my ear telling me to stick to basketball, but Avant does."

Looking to attract recruiting attention: The standout York Suburban guard has drawn interest from Division II and Division III programs but hasn't heard from Division I schools yet. Avant isn’t a big name in recruiting circles just yet, but with continued success he hopes to attract more attention.

If Suburban can enjoy more team success next season, it might help. The Trojans finished this season at 8-13 overall and 5-7 in York-Adams Division II, missing out on the playoffs. Between now and his next high school season, Sweeney will try to use AAU ball as an opportunity to get his game in front of recruiters.

Avant Sweeney is shown with his father, Rashaad.

Kemp, meanwhile, is preparing his 2022-2023 team for a run at the York-Adams and District 3 Class 5-A playoffs, while also helping Sweeney develop his game. 

“He has to develop more of an outside shot, adding more moves and focusing on the mental side,” Kemp said. “Not putting too much pressure on himself. He has a tremendous attitude when he plays well. He had three amazing games to end the year because he was more focused. Understanding the IQ side. He has the skill set.”

Aiming to improve:  The guard wants to get better at all aspects, and having his support group helped him focus on doing just that. 

“My dad played basketball and didn’t get to finish, and my grandfather played. We're all in the same household,” Avant said. “I just want to put in more work. I have a lot of issues going on with my family, and I just want to make it to the next level. I want to prepare for the next step.”

— Reach Dante Green at dgreen@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @ydsports.