This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to most people, but former Saint Mary’s recruit, Cullen Neal, has his been released from his commitment to the university, and will play for his father Craig Neal, who was recently named the head coach when his predecessor Steve Alford left to be the head coach at UCLA. Jeff Goodman broke the news earlier today.
Cullen Neal, according to Rivals, is a 3-star prospect who is the 34th ranked point guard in the nation. His ability to pass, shoot, and run the offense made him the perfect fit for the Gaels system. His passion and love for the game of basketball are apparent just by watching his highlight tape. It’s unfortunate that Saint Mary’s lost this highly prodigious recruit, but it seemed inevitable ever since Craig Neal got the job at New Mexico. Neal, who attends Eldorado High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, must be elated to play for his dad and home state at the University of New Mexico.
Although losing Neal certainly is not good, Saint Mary’s by no means has a bad recruiting class without Neal. Calvin Hermanson, a 6’5″ forward out of Lake Oswego, is ranked 144th in the Rivals 150, and Dane Pineau, a 6’9″ forward from Australia, is a nice player as well. These are two pieces that the Gaels can certainly build on for the future. However, the void left by Matthew Dellavedova must be taken in account. Neal, unfortunately, was supposed to be that player.
Panic Meter: 5 or 6
Losing a potential starter, and the proposed heir apparent to Matthew Dellavedova, is not good by any means. However, this isn’t anything that Saint Mary’s has not done before. Before Dellavedova, there was Micky McConnell. And before McConnell, there was Patty Mills. Every year, Saint Mary’s seems to find a guy to step up, and replace the shoes of the guy that came before him. History indicates that a guard will rise to the occasion in 2013. The real question is, who could be that player.
My money is on Stephen Holt.
Holt has shown the ability to score in bunches, and be a dynamic player in the Gaels backcourt. Last year, when teams were swarming Delly with double teams, Holt would often take control and knock down big shots. The senior from Portland, Oregon played particularly well against one of the best teams in the country last year, the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Holt scored 17, 19, and 23 points in three meetings with the Zags. Last season, Holt showed that he was not afraid of higher level competition, and the aforementioned statistic is a testament to that.
Saint Mary’s will be fine. With the recent NCAA sanctions, topped off by Neal’s de-commitment from the Gaels, most teams would crumble and perform poorly as a result. However, the last few years indicates that Saint Mary’s will remain near the top of the WCC. Randy Bennett’s squad is a resilient bunch, and if any team could bounce back from the recent events, it would be them.