Tracking the College Basketball Stars of the Future
Monday, March 28, 2004
By Thad Mumau
Brawny Va. forward lost in
It is going
to be interesting to watch the David Neal recruiting story unfold. Part of
that story will involve East Carolina and what will probably be a woulda,
coulda, shoulda kind of saga.
Neal is a 6-7 power forward from Arlington (VA) Bishop O’Connell, which
recently swept both the Virginia Independent Schools state championship and
the Al Hambra Invitational to complete a 31-3 season.
He was named the MVP of both tournaments, and his torrid finish has
attracted a flurry of high level college coaches. What this may mean is
that East Carolina, once a prominent player in the Neal sweepstakes, will
fade out of the picture.
“I don’t know at this point,” Bishop O’Connell coach Joe Wootten said. “We
haven’t heard from East Carolina since they got rid of their coach. The new
coach (Ricky Stokes) has not contacted us. Now, whether that means he is not
interested in David or just hasn’t gotten around to calling, I couldn’t
What Wootten did say was that Bill Herrion had offered Neal a scholarship,
and he was very interested.
“That was maybe two weeks before Coach Herrion was let go,” Wootten said
“He offered David, then called back a couple weeks later and said he got
fired. That was very classy on his part to take the time to do that.
“David hasn’t said he isn’t considering East Carolina any longer, but hasn’t
said he is, either. But we haven’t heard from them since all that happened.”
Neal wrapped up an outstanding senior season with a consistently fantastic
postseason. He scored 16 points and pulled down 13 rebounds in the Virginia
Independent Schools title game and earned the MVP vote as Bishop O’Connell
defeated Paul VI, 66-50. He scored 27 points in a first-round victory.
In other games this season against Paul VI, he had scored 34 and 23 points.
Bishop O’Connell won its third straight Al Hambra championship by downing
Hyattsville (MD) DeMatha (where Wootten’s father, Morgan, became a coaching
legend), 54-47, behind 15 points and 10 boards from Neal.
He had 25 points and a dozen rebounds the previous night and 21 points and
15 boards in the opening round on the way to another MVP honor.
For the season, Neal averaged 20.5 points and 13 rebounds, while shooting 65
percent from the floor and 85 percent from the free throw line. Teammate
Marcus Ginyard, a shooting guard who has signed with North Carolina, scored
20 points per game.
Neal played prominently for Bishop O’Connell four years, coming off the
bench for appreciable minutes as a freshman, then starting the last three
seasons. He got about 13 points and five rebounds as a sophomore, 15 and
nine as a junior. The Knights won 116 games over those four years.
As a result of Neal’s strong showing in big games, the recruiting field has
grown larger and stronger. Clemson and Northwestern recently offered
scholarships, and Maryland and Georgetown may both offer soon. Washington
State has also offered.
“Coaches from Maryland and Georgetown saw David for the first time when we
played DeMatha in late January,” Wootten said, “and I think they are close
to offering. He has heard from a ton of mid-major schools, I would say
Neal is academically qualified for freshman eligibility, and anyone would
admire his improvement in the classroom. He had a 2.9 grade-point average as
a freshman, 3.5 as a sophomore, 4.0 as a junior and 3.8 so far this year. He
has surpassed the 820 SAT requirement.
“David is a versatile 6-7 guy,” Wootten said. “The thing everybody likes
about him is that he can score. He finds a way to get the ball in the
basket. If I could bottle his shooting touch, I would be the greatest coach
in the world.
“He can hit the three-point shot and he can hit the five-footer, and the
latter is one of the toughest shots in basketball. He hits a lot of 15- and
16-footers, and he can finish inside.
“He looks like a football player because he is so strong. He weighs 235
pounds, and he has that natural strength. He hasn’t worked that much with
weights. He is deceptive, though, because despite that muscular look, he
David moves very well without the ball and is exceptional at finding open
spaces. He is a quick jumper, is a great anticipator and he can put the ball
on the floor. He has some nice ball skills.
“For college,” Wootten said, “I think he will be a face-up four man. For
power forwards guarding him, it will be a lot like trying to guard a small
forward. He can really score.”
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