This past weekend in North Caroling Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions was held and there were a couple of connections to the 505 and the University of New Mexico.
I spoke to GM Ernie Kuyper about both young men as both Neal and Nader
Nader the 6-7 190 forward out of Niles North HS (Skokie Ill.) committed to play for New Mexico two months ago.
"He is a great great basketball player," says Kuyper. "He is very special, he understands how to play the game, pass, shoot it score. He is only 16 so he has a lot of maturity yet to come. You give this kid another year it is going to be amazing!"
When asked what makes Abdel Nader that special player… "His (Nader's) work ethic is really good," says Kuyper. "You can tell, he wants to be great, he wants it bad!
As far as this past weekend in North Carolina… "He easily held his own with every player on the court," says Kuyper. "And in my opinion was one of the best players in the tournament."
The other young man that I wanted to ask Ernie Kuyper about was Eldorado HS (Albuquerque, NM) Cullen Neal.
Neal the son of New Mexico Asst. Head Coach Craig Neal has been making a name for himself on the summer circuit for a couple of years now with the Albuquerque based Danny Granger Hurricane.
Already this summer Neal was named to the 3rd team Elite 8 Tourney in Phoenix earlier this spring and named as on of the 5 "up and comers." So with a free weekend Cullen committed to play with M33M at TOC and Ernie had a glowing report on Neal.
It only took Neal 3 games with M33M to crack their starting lineup, which Kuyper tells us is now small feat. "He started the 3rd game on our team." Ernie took a moment to try and remember how many times that has happened and just said, "We don't have a lot of freshmen start on M33M so he is one of a very select few that have ever started for our program." Not bad considering that Cullen a frosh came down only for the weekend.
So what is it about Neal that allowed him to start for M33M? "He is very talented player and will be one of the best in his class in the country," says Kuyper. "In my opinion a Top 20 or 30 players in his class."
That is pretty strong praise I respond, what makes Cullen so good? "You can tell he is a coaches kid," responds Kuyper. "In my opinion he is two steps ahead of the game and completely understands the game of basketball. He knows when to pass, when to shoot, when to crash the board, and not just offensively either. He understands defensively where he should be, and just understands the flow of the game."
Obviously for a freshman that is a ringing endorsement, but I thought I would try to get a little bit more on Cullen Neal. I asked Ernie what was the strongest part of Neal's game.
"Everything," responded Kuyper. "He is a very very smart and gifted basketball player, not just physically but also mentally."
Stay tuned to TheRedMenace.com, as we will be
Cullen Neal and the rest of the Granger Hurricanes this summer.