TOWSON, Md. - Going undrafted and then failing to latch on as a free agent with any NBA team after a brilliant college basketball career didn't send former Towson great Gary Neal into a post-graduate tailspin. Instead, the record-setting guard found a nice nitch overseas where he's very content.
"I'm happy in Europe but of course I'd like to play in the NBA because it's in the United States where it's easier on the family," said Gary as he and former Tiger teammate Dennard Abraham took a breather from a workout in the sweltering Towson Center earlier this week. "My agent understands that unless it's a serious look and offer from an NBA team, I just want to enjoy my summer. I've got a job."
And it's a good one. Gary's earnings are tax free. For many Americans playing overseas, that's an attractive option, and preferable to Uncle Sam taking his big bite of your apple.
After Gary set numerous school (most notably 810 points in his senior year) and CAA (best career scoring average) records, he was signed by Pinar Karsiyaka. He led the Turkish League in scoring with a 26.5 point average before his contract was bought by FC Barcelona in the Spanish League.
Last year he signed with Benetton Treviso, the class of the Italian League where he seems to have found a home away from home.
Gary averaged 14.5 points in the first half of 2008-09 while Benetton played a domestic schedule. He was named mid-season first team All-Italy. The second half of the season featured a much tougher slate of Euroleague opponents. Gary averaged 17.5 points and was selected to the post-season All-Euroleague second team.
He has a year left on his Benetton contract. The future with that francise depends upon his continued good play and the success of the team.
"I'd like to have a 10-year career as a professional," said Gary, who earned his degree in History at Towson. "If I can get at least eight more years out of my body that'll be just fine with me. After my playing days are over I'd like to get into college coaching."
He certainly left his mark on Towson and local college basketball. He played less than two seasons at Towson, due to the NCAA transfer rule and a nagging stress fracture that sidelined him for the final four games in his junior year. The first of 1,254 points he scored as a Tiger came from an NBA range three-pointer on his first shot after being inserted into the game by Pat Kennedy against VMI. He netted 28 points in 29 minutes as he gave Tiger fans a taste of what was to come.
His last bucket in a Tiger uniform was also a trey with 50 seconds left as Old Dominion held on for a 58-55 CAA Tournament quarterfinal victory over the Tigers.