Posts Tagged ‘Richard Hart’

Neal Putting His Mark On Finals

SAN ANTONIO — As he bombarded the Miami Heat with one 3-pointer after another, goose bumps surfaced some 1,600 miles away just as they had that February night in 2000 when the entire town of tiny Aberdeen, Md., roared as one for the amazing Gary Neal.

“On my way to work today I checked my Facebook and saw that he [Neal] had just updated his page and so I sent him a post,” said Neal’s Aberdeen High School basketball coach Richard Hart, who still coaches there today. “I wrote, ‘Gary Neal comes through when the spotlight is on. Anyone surprised? Not me.’

“Obviously, that was a reference to the championship game.”

A sophomore guard for the Aberdeen Eagles, Neal led the school to its first boys basketball state championship since 1976 in dramatic fashion. He’s been a legend there ever since.

“It came down to a timeout and a tie game with less than a minute to play,” Hart said, replaying the moment as if it happened last night rather than Neal’s playoff-high 24-point Game 3 of the NBA Finals gave the San Antonio Spurs to a 2-1 series lead. “It got tense with 10 seconds to go and Gary, you saw a look in his eye. He had the ball at halfcourt and he decided to take charge. He couldn’t finish at the rim so he threw up a four-or-five foot jump hook over [the defender’s] hand, and the whole town of Aberdeen exploded.”

Aberdeen is a town of some 15,000 close-knit residents — “kind of like Mayberry,” said Aberdeen High administrative assistant Diana Jackson — and located about 30 miles northeast of Baltimore.

Jackson’s four sons grew up playing basketball with Neal in the neighborhood and her television, her sons’ televisions and many, many others in the town were tuned in to Tuesday night’s Game 3 as the unheralded Neal poured in six 3-pointers, and a crucial one that beat the halftime buzzer and carried the momentum into a devastating second half.

While Twitter exploded during and after the game with “Who’s Gary Neal?” tweets — some sent tongue-in-cheek while others were dead serious — Aberdeen, Md., is both full-fledged Gary Neal territory and Spurs country.

“Our principal had on [Neal’s] jersey yesterday during announcements,” Jackson said, “so I would say so.” (more…)