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Craig Neal's son released from Saint Mary's, will play at UNM

By Jeff Goodman | College Basketball Insider

It all changed for Cullen Neal once his dad got the head job.

Neal committed to Saint Mary's over New Mexico largely due to the fact that it would be difficult to vie for starting point guard duties with Bryce Alford -- Steve's son. The duo played together in the summers, but it would be different in college since both are more effective with the ball in their hands. So Craig Neal's son opted to play for Randy Bennett at Saint Mary's in an ideal situation with star point guard Matthew Dellavedova graduating.

But then Alford left for UCLA, took Bryce with him and Craig Neal was elevated to the head coaching spot.

"Once he got the job, it changed," Cullen told CBSSports.com. "Making the call to Coach Bennett was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do."

"I built a great relationship with him and their entire staff and I just wish them the best," he added. "Coach Bennett completely understood."

But this was a no-brainer. The family took about a week, and Craig Neal tried to give his son some space, while also making it clear he wanted -- and needed -- his son to remain in Albuquerque.

"He played both the father and coach roles," Cullen said.

The 6-foot-4 1/2, 180-pound Neal averaged 26.5 points per game last season at Eldorado High and gives the Lobos a long and talented point guard who can both score and also make his teammates better. With Kendall Williams back in the fold, Neal said he understands his role will be different than it would have been in the WCC with the Gaels.

"I grew up with all these guys, though," he said. "They know me well. I'll be completely fine playing off the ball. Both Coach Alford and my dad taught us to play on and off the ball."

Just a few weeks ago, Cullen Neal wasn't even thinking about playing for his father. He was talking to his dad about going to northern California, adding a few pounds and preparing to fill the role vacated by one of the best pure floor leaders in the country.

"I can't wait," Neal said. "I think it's going to be one of the best experiences of my life. I'm going to be able to stay home, have my mom watch me play, see my little brother and play for my dad."

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