Cullen Neal

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Mountain West gives New Mexico guard Cullen Neal medical hardship year

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The 2014-15 season got off to a rough start for New Mexico, as starting point guard Cullen Neal went down with a serious ankle injury in the team’s third game of the year. The injury, suffered at the Puerto Rico Tipoff, was ultimately a season-ender for Neal and it was one of many hits the Lobos took from a health standpoint.

Friday afternoon the school announced that its request for a medical hardship waiver for Neal had been granted by the Mountain West. As a result Neal retains that season of eligibility, meaning that he’ll have three years left to play at UNM.

Neal scored 26 and 23 points in New Mexico’s first two games before suffering the injury in the Lobos’ loss to Boston College, and without him things changed considerably for head coach Craig Neal. Hugh Greenwood, who was expected to spend the majority of his time playing off the ball, had to move back to the point. And other injuries throughout the course of the season led to New Mexico finishing with a 15-16 record.

Cullen Neal will be asked to lead the way for UNM next season, and that would have been the case regardless of the Mountain West’s ruling. The good news is that he’ll have three more years to lead the way as opposed to two.

New Mexico point guard to miss remainder of season due to ankle injury

Cullen Neal
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Shortly after New Mexico’s 66-53 win over No. 24 Colorado State on Saturday, the news many expected to hear became official. Sophomore point guard Cullen Neal, who hasn’t played since the Puerto Rico Tipoff in November after injuring his right ankle, will sit out the remainder of the season and apply for a medical redshirt according to Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal.

Neal partially tore tendons in his right ankle in the second half of New Mexico’s loss to Boston College on November 20, and his exit from the lineup has led to senior guard Hugh Greenwood moving into the role of primary ball-handler. Prior to the injury Greenwood was expected to spend the majority of his time off the ball for the Lobos, who are currently 10-4 overall and 2-0 in Mountain West play.

Per NCAA rules, had Cullen Neal played after the 15th game of the season, which is Tuesday at San Diego State, he wouldn’t have been able to pursue a medical hardship waiver (the official term for the more commonly used medical redshirt). UNM’s compliance office and the Neal family, including mother Janet and Craig Neal, have met on multiple occasions since the injury to ensure they have all the proper documentation to file for the waiver, though there is no timetable on when the NCAA will actually rule on the request.

Without Neal the Lobos have tightened things up defensively in order to account for the comparative lack of scoring, and the results thus far have been positive. New Mexico has won seven of its last eight games, and Saturday both Sam Logwood (15 points) and Devon Williams (13) scored in double figures.

New Mexico’s Craig Neal unsure if starting point guard will return this season

Cullen Neal
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After scoring a total of 49 points in New Mexico’s first two games of the season, sophomore point guard Cullen Neal suffered a severe right ankle sprain in the Lobos’ loss to Boston College in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tipoff. Upon the team’s return from San Juan, it was reported that Neal could miss anywhere from three to five weeks as a result of the injury.

However, according to Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal, New Mexico head coach Craig Neal is unsure of when (or if) his starting point guard will return to the lineup. There’s a chance that Neal could miss the remainder of the season as a result of the ankle injury, with the head coach noting that if a decision had to be made at that point in time (this past Thursday), “I don’t think he comes back.”

The elder Neal is looking at this situation from the perspective of a father wanting what’s best for his son as opposed to focusing on how the team would benefit from Cullen’s return to the court. And he wants his son to make the decision that’s best for him, even with the desire to get back onto the court to help his team.

“I’m going to do what’s best for Cullen, not what’s best for my team or what’s best for me,” Craig Neal said, adding that seeking medical hardship waivers is something he would let any player and his family make the call on, regardless of the team’s situation.

“I know he’s feeling a lot of pressure because he thinks he’s got to come back for me as his coach and as his dad, and I think he’s feeling a lot of pressure thinking he’s got to come back for his teammates. At the end of the day, you’ve got to do what’s best for him. That’s with all our kids.”

Since going 1-3 during that stretch the Lobos have won three straight games, most recently beating UL-Monroe 54-46 Saturday night. New Mexico’s been hit hard by the injury bug of late, with Arthur Edwards (finger) and Jordan Goodman (concussion) out of the lineup as well.

With that being the case the Lobos have stepped up on the defensive end of the floor, with none of their last three opponents shooting better than 35 percent from the field. In wins over New Mexico State, Valparaiso and UL Monroe, New Mexico allowed an average of 46.3 points per game.

Ankle injury to sideline New Mexico’s starting point guard three to five weeks

Cullen Neal
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As difficult as New Mexico’s trip to Puerto Rico was last week, with the Lobos dropping two of their three games at the Puerto Rico Tipoff, what made things even worse was the fact that they returned to Albuquerque at less than full strength.

Starting point guard and leading scorer Cullen Neal suffered a right ankle injury early in the second half of New Mexico’s loss to Boston College. And on Sunday the player who replaced him in the starting lineup, Arthur Edwards, suffered a dislocated finger (and a broken bone) on his right hand in a loss to Texas A&M.

With both players undergoing further examination upon their return to New Mexico, how much time they’ll have to sit on the sidelines was finally learned Wednesday. According to Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal, an MRI of Neal’s ankle revealed some ligament damage but not enough to require surgery.

As a result Neal is expected to miss anywhere from three to five weeks, with Edwards’ dislocation/fracture expected to cost him four to six weeks of action. The timeline for both players lands close to the start of Mountain west play, with the Lobos opening with Fresno State on New Year’s Eve. Yet while the Bulldogs have struggled thus far, it should be noted that New Mexico’s next two conference games are Colorado State (January 3) and No. 15 San Diego State (January 6).

With Neal and Edwards sidelined New Mexico will continue to use senior Hugh Greenwood, who was supposed to spend the majority of his time off the ball, as the starting point guard and Deshawn Delaney will need to be an even more consistent offensive option for the Lobos. After scoring eight points in the loss to Boston College, the senior wing tallied 16 in a win over George Mason and 13 against Texas A&M.

New Mexico guard breaks bone in his hand during loss to Texas A&M

Peyton Allen, Arthur Edwards
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With leading scorer and point guard Cullen Neal sidelined with an ankle injury that will be reevaluated when the team returns to Albuquerque, New Mexico head coach Craig Neal has been forced to make a couple adjustments to his lineup. One was to have senior Hugh Greenwood spend more time initiating offense as the point guard, and the other was to move Arthur Edwards into the starting lineup.

Edwards made his second start Sunday in the Lobos’ 64-51 loss to Texas A&M, and with just over four minutes left in the game injured his hand in a collision with Texas A&M’s Jalen Jones. Edwards broke a bone in his hand, and the details of the injury are a bit gruesome. Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal wrote the following on the situation:

Craig Neal said after the game a bone in Edwards’ hand had broken and was sticking out of the skin as he walked toward the end of the bench. Like Cullen Neal, more details on that injury and a timetable on how long he’ll be out of the lineup will be known later this week.

New Mexico dropped two of its three games at the Puerto Rico Tipoff, but what’s of greater concern is the team’s health as they return home. The hope is that they receive good news on both Edwards and Neal, with their next game scheduled for Sunday, November 30 against USC. If those two have to sit out an extended amount of time, players such as Deshawn Delaney and Jordan Goodman become even more important than they already are.

Delaney’s averaging 11.2 points per game this season, and in the last two games he’s averaged 14.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per contest. As for Goodman, after scoring 19 points in New Mexico’s win over George Mason he accounted for just five on Sunday. He’ll need to be more consistent as the Lobos look to string together some wins heading into the start of Mountain West play.

New Mexico point guard out indefinitely with left ankle injury

Cullen Neal
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Not only did New Mexico lose its Puerto Rico Tipoff opener against Boston College on Thursday, but they also lost their starting point guard Cullen Neal. Neal rolled his left ankle in the second half of the 69-65 defeat, and according to Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal the sophomore isn’t expected to play again this weekend.

How long could Neal, who’s averaging a team-best 17.0 points along with 3.4 assists per game? That remains to be seen, with the plan being to reevaluate the ankle once the team returns to Albuquerque.

[New Mexico head coach] Craig Neal told the Journal on Friday morning from San Juan, Puerto Rico, that while an X-ray revealed “no major fracture,” that there is still a concern for possible ligament damage or a hairline fracture. The Lobos won’t know the full extent of the injury until the team returns to Albuquerque early next week and has an MRI conducted.

As Grammer also noted in the story, not having Neal means that senior Hugh Greenwood will spend even more time at the point than originally anticipated. Greenwood is the team’s second-leading scorer while also averaging a team-best 4.0 assists per game, and against Boston College he racked up 24 points, three assists and three steals.

No other Lobo reached double figures in the loss, and players such as Deshawn Delaney and Devon Williams will need to raise both their productivity and consistency with Neal out of the lineup. New Mexico takes on George Mason Friday evening, with a game against either Texas A&M or College of Charleston set for Sunday.