Friday, March 10, 2006

Where are they now - "Noodles"

That's right - in the midst of all the unbelievable point guards that have graced the flats, there's one guy who had one of the most impressive individual seasons as a point guard in the history of the school - yet he's rarely mentioned in the company of Kenny Anderson, Stephon Marbury, Travis Best, Jarrett Jack............ It's Craig "Noodles" Neal. During the 1987-88 season, Neal set the all-time season assist mark with 303. Even Kenny Anderson's magic 1990 season only yielded 285 assists. That record still stands as a Georgia Tech single season record by Neal. During the 1988-89 season, Neal set the single game assist record (19) against Duke 12-28-1988. I was there. Believe it or not, I still have a yellow pom-pom from that game with the 19 assists written on it. Here's a cool article on Noodles, who is now an assistant coach at Iowa.

But Iowa associate head coach Craig Neal doesn't bat an eye when he's called "Noodles." That's part of Neal's persona, like his Indiana drawl and easy-going demeanor.

"When I grew up, I think I played my first NBA game at 150 (pounds)," Neal said. "So I kind of got (the nickname) in high school. The Dick Vitale era had started, so once he got a hold of it when I played down at Georgia Tech, it was pretty hard stopping it."

Did you know this?

Neal joined the Iowa men's basketball staff two seasons ago when Sam Alford retired. Neal offered Iowa coach Steve Alford the continuity, familiarity and trust that he lost when his father left the staff. Those weren't Neal's only qualities, of course, but they have served the head coach, players and program well.

"He's my best buddy," Steve Alford said. "We grew up together. We know each other. We've had similar careers as players and coaches. He brings great enthusiasm, great excitement. It allows me to concentrate on maybe one or two items instead of 15 items. I think we've gotten better because of that

This article is quite complimentary of Neal's coaching ability. Wonder if he would be interested in ever returning to his alma mater?