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Cullen Neal to finish career at Saint Mary’s

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The guard is the rare player to twice hit the market as a graduate transfer.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Tournament-Mississippi vs Missouri Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss graduate transfer Cullen Neal will spend his final year of eligibility at Saint Mary’s, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman and FanRag Sports’ Jon Rothstein.

He talked to ESPN about his decision.

"Saint Mary's has a winning culture," he added. "They have a really good team coming back and I just want to help in any way I can. The biggest thing for me was to go out as a winner."

This isn’t the first time Neal and the Gaels have been connected.

The guard originally committed to Randy Bennett and Saint Mary’s out of high school prior to the 2013-14 season. But he wound up at New Mexico after his dad, Craig Neal, became head coach following Steve Alford’s move to UCLA.

He had an eventful three-year career in Albuquerque.

As a freshman, Neal was a key reserve on a 27-7 team that won the Mountain West tournament. He was forced to seek a medical hardship waiver after a season-ending ankle injury in the third game of his sophomore year. He returned as a junior to lead the team in assists per game (3.7), and finish third in both points (12.3) and minutes (30.2) per game.

But Neal’s time as a Lobo might be most remembered, at least nationally, for death threats that he allegedly received amid scores of social media criticism. This led him to Ole Miss, where he was eligible immediately last season as a graduate transfer. He was the Rebels’ fourth-leading scorer (9.4 PPG), but faced a crowded backcourt next season, particularly after Andy Kennedy signed Memphis graduate transfer Markel Crawford.

He was released by the program in late April, making him the rare player to hit the market for a second time as a graduate transfer.

Neal should be a good fit in the program that was his original choice.

Randy Bennett adds a good long distance shooter (40.9% on 154 attempts last season) to a team that finished 15th in the country in three-point percentage (39.4%). Neal should get plenty of opportunities playing off double-team machine Jock Landale.

He should also be able to replace some of departing senior Joe Rahon’s production, and allow Bennett to yet again pair Emmett Naar with another point guard. Neal twice finished in top-21 in the MWC in assist percentage, which fits well with an offense that moves the ball as well as any team. The Gaels assisted on 63.1 percent of their made field goals last season, the eighth-best mark country.

The Gaels lose just Rahon and Dane Pineau off a 29-5 team that gave Arizona a tough game in the NCAA Tournament’s second round. Many will likely consider them a favorite in the WCC after Gonzaga lost Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins to the NBA draft.