A few thoughts on transfer point guard Cullen Neal, who could be a very big addition to Ole Miss basketball.
The Rebels are trying to replace Stefan Moody, the SEC’s leading scorer.
Neal isn’t going to replace Moody’s scoring, but he will be expected to step into the void at point guard.
Neal averaged 12.3 points and 3.7 assists while averaging 3.2 turnovers at New Mexico this season.
Numerically, he doesn’t wow you with 3-point shooting at 32.7 percent but looks like a guy who can knock it down if he’s left open.
You’d like to get the turnover numbers down a little, but if he’s facilitating at almost four assists a game, he’s creating a lot of offense.
It’s unrealistic to think any player is going to step in and score like Moody.
If Neal can average 12 a game Ole Miss could presumably have three legitimate scoring threats if Deandre Burnett turns out to be the player he is thought to be.
Ole Miss is going to have to replace Moody’s points in some way, and it doesn’t need to be with Sebastian Saiz as the No. 1 option.
If Neal and Burnett can both score somewhat consistently Saiz can be the second or third option which is where he’s most effective.
Moody was a lot of fun to watch, but balanced scoring could make this team better.
Regarding death threats …
There seems to be some confusion on that score.
In a story published on Feb. 13 in the Albuquerque Journal local law enforcement did not confirm that Neal had received death threats. The Journal quoted Neal’s father, New Mexico coach Craig Neal, from a news conference in which he said his son had received death threats.
Presumably the threats revolved around Cullen Neal’s play. In a four-game stretch from Feb. 2 to Feb. 13 Neal shot 9-for-40 from the floor. He shot 35 percent from the floor for the season.
Five times he had five or more turnovers in a game including a season-high eight against BYU on Dec. 23.
Supportive fans and students rallied around Neal at a home game against San Jose State on Feb. 13.
We talk about a third scorer a lot, but the truth is roles change on the fly. The first-level scorers need to be good enough to take on more responsibility if a wave of injuries sets in.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy has signed graduate transfers the last couple of years, and it’s taken these guys a while to adapt to new surroundings.
Neal has the added dynamic of the turbulence surrounding his New Mexico departure. You don’t know how that will affect him.
All in all, the transfer thing has been good for Kennedy, and on paper Neal looks like a guy who can help early at a big position of need.