Neal Says Goodbye to Hilton

Cyclone fans enjoy things that they can call their own. They don't want Hawks, Cornhuskers, or Tigers; they want pure breed, true blue Cyclones. That's what John Neal is. He is a man that is truly 100% Cyclone, and he's played his last regular season game in Hilton Coliseum.

It's no secret as to what John Neal will be remembered for. He'll be remembered as the virtually unknown walk-on sophomore that came off the bench against Iowa in 2003. That same kid is now is referred to simply as "Hawkeye Killer." He'll be known as the kid who came off of the bench to light up Steve Alford's hot shooting Hawks to give Iowa State much needed win over their rival in an era where the fans needed it the most. That's how he'll be remembered, but John Neal is so much more than that.

 

John Neal comes from a family of Cyclones. His father, Brian Neal was a four year starter for the Iowa State Football team from 1977-81 and his little brother Patrick has committed to play for the Cyclones next year also in football.

 

"We take great pride in Iowa State athletics. We've been fans all our lives. It's a great deal and it's great whenever you can have a family member or someone involved with Iowa State like that and it's great to be a part of," said Neal.

 

Tuesday night was John Neal's last regular season game in Hilton Coliseum. In his last game, Neal went 4-8 from 3-point range and scored 14 points to lead his Cyclones over a struggling Missouri team.

 

"He deserves to play that well. He came out playing really well. He hit a long three from almost half court it seemed like. It feels good for that guy to do that. He's been here through thick and thin and I'm proud of him," said Cyclone guard Curtis Stinson.

 

Neal not only had one of his best games of the season on Tuesday, but he hit a surprising milestone along the way. Tuesday night's game marked the first time all season that Neal went to the free throw line.

 

"I was trying to make it through the entire year without getting fouled but unfortunately they got me," said Neal.

 

After the game, Stinson had an optimistic spin on Neal's incredible stat.

 

"We just said he was one for one. Then he hit the second one. He was two for two. He's 100% now. He's a 3-point shooter and that's what he does. We know that if he gets there then he's going to make them. That's what he did tonight. He's 100%," said Stinson.

 

So how does a guy like Neal, who's lived and breathed Cyclones his entire life, exit Hilton? The answer to that is simple. Neal did it with style, skill, and most importantly class.

 

"It's a special feeling. We have great fans that support you if you're winning or losing," said Neal.

 

Neal has indeed been through good and bad times during his tenure at Iowa State. Neal went from being the guy that could do no wrong after the famous Iowa game during his sophomore year to a one-hit wonder during his junior campaign. It didn't matter to Neal what the critics were saying. Neal kept playing hard, and he kept playing his game. He knew that eventually his shots would fall, and indeed they have as Neal has hit 48% of his 3-point attempts this season, many of which that have come in clutch times for the Cyclones.

 

"It was special playing at Iowa State for the past four years. Being able to play under Coach Eustachy and Coach Morgan, I've been blessed to play for two great coaches. Tonight was a good way to end it with a win. Knocking some shots down made it a fun way to end it."

 

The following quote should sum up why Cyclone fans are in love with John Neal.

 

"Having your name in the books is something I always dreamed about as a kid and now I've been blessed enough for it to come true."

 

This just might be one of those cases where people don't realize what they had, until it's gone.


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