Assignment 8: Cullen Neal

Cullen Neal is the point guard for the Ole Miss Men’s Basketball team. This past season was Neal’s first time playing as an Ole Miss Rebel. Neal originally played at the University of New Mexico, redshirted his Sophomore year, and then decided to transfer to Ole Miss after a tough comeback process.
Neal does his ritual shooting drills in his new “home,” The Pavilion. During the off season, Neal does not stop working on his shooting ability. He has had a ball in his hands since he can remember and he aspires to get better day by day, because it is “all part of the process.”
Cullen practices his form without the ball and imagines exactly where the ball will go. Neal has many drills that his dad taught him when he was younger that he continues to practice today, this being one of them. Neal’s father played in the NBA so Cullen has always trusted his dad’s advice.
Neal shoots from every angle of the hoop as part of his shooting warm-up. Neal does a drill similar to “around the world” because this is something his father, as well as his coaches have made him practice since he can remember. Neal is the point guard so being able to shoot from difficult spots is important.
Neal tells me about more of his drills and why he sticks to the basic training of ball handling and shooting. His dad always told him that it is not about being “fancy” with the ball, but rather to just be able to control the ball and where it needs to go.
Neal laughs as we talked about his memories playing high school ball. Neal said it was a very different ball game and when he got to college, “the pressure got a lot more intense.” Neal knew he was a star player when he entered high school and was immediately being recruited as a freshman.
Neal hops for a layup. Neal says practice makes perfect, even the simplest things like practicing layups. Ever since he can remember layups have been part of his warm-ups for practice and games.
Neal practices crossover dribbling drills. His dad and every coach he has ever had made him do a variety of ball handling drills. Neal said it is important for him to be able to control the ball with both hands, because he is the point guard and he needs to be able to make plays going both ways. To train himself to go both ways he will add two balls and dribble up and down the court.
Neal dribbles behind the back while walking the baseline. This is another drill Neal has practiced since he can remember. Neal said that being a point guard requires control, but also skill.
Lastly, for Neal’s warm-ups he dribbles full court, changing between crossovers, behind the back, and between the legs. Neal said ball handling is definitely just as important as his shooting ability. Neal likes being able to score points, but his first priority is to make plays happen.
Neal checking his social media accounts. Neal said he is a big fan of social media, though it did cause him problems in the past. Neal was harassed on social media by students at his old school, saying he only played because he was the coach’s son and other hurtful things that led Neal to transferring.
Neal getting ready to do his more intense shooting drills. Neal practices nonstop, he says it is because he only wants to better himself and achieve the goals he has set for himself. This picture is important because Neal said that he felt coming into the SEC and playing for Ole Miss would give him the potential to possibly become an NBA player like his dad.
Neal takes a moment in the locker room. Neal started to explain how difficult the recruiting process was for him, though he was being looked at by over 80 universities, he was afraid he would face the same criticism he did at his last university. Neal said he can take criticism, but it really got to him, especially since he was coming off an injury and said he needed support.
Neal thinks about his recruiting process before continuing with his story. Neal said he let his dad narrow his schools down, because Neal’s biggest dream is to become an NBA player. Neal’s father did not visit Ole Miss with him, because he wanted Cullen to experience it for himself. Neal said when his dad finally visited he felt the same way Cullen did.
Neal stands outside his new “home” the place he felt would give him the most opportunity. Neal ended his story saying that the he immediately felt a connection with the coaches and players. Neal said he knew he had to be a Rebel, not only because he loved the campus, environment, coaches, and players, but because he felt that it was the only place he could see himself push him to greatness.
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