Since his days as the Gatorade New Mexico basketball player of the year, during his senior year at Albuquerque's Eldorado High School, Cullen Neal is used to receiving awards and nominations. It just comes with the territory of being a star athlete, unfortunately Neal lives in the "fish bowl" that is Albuquerque.
When your dad is the top assistant and then the head coach of the state's top University, you tend to be under a microscope. Everything Cullen does is scrutinized. From the incident his mom had with a former Albuquerque assistant principal to the kiss he blew at the student section in Wyoming his freshman year. Everything bad is noticed, people even debated on if he should sit next to the coaches on the bench instead of at the end while he redshirted last year.
Fans often forget that there is more to the player than just what is seen on the court. Cullen's many good deeds fly under the radar of most Lobo fans or they are just ignored. When it was announced that Neal had given his tuition stipend money to teammate Obij Aget, the news of this deed did not generate dozens of calls to the post game call in show and the "Speak Up" page of the local sports was not filled with comments, like it had been with the kiss heard around the world, but it is a reflection of Cullen Neal's selflessness.
Neal is now being recognized nationally for his acts, he has been nominated by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) to be a part of the 2016 Allstate NABC Good Works Team®, a select group of college basketball student athletes are nominated for their remarkable community service achievements. Cullen, has shown leadership on the court, as well as off the court by exhibiting various acts of kindness and dedication to giving back to the community which include:
- Being a volunteer at local summer camps.
- Conducting reading sessions in elementary school classrooms.
- Working with the Heart Gallery, whose mission is to support children in adoption and foster care.
- Participation in the LoboTHON, whose mission is to raise money and awareness for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.
- Putting on basketball clinics for Native American youth throughout the state of New Mexico.
- Helping various other charities like the Special Olympics, the UNM Cancer Center, the Ronald McDonald House and the Wounded Warrior Project.
If Neal wins the award, he will be the first Lobo athlete to achieve this honor, but he is not the only athlete to be nominated this year. Lady Lobo Guard, Bryce Owens was also nominated by the (WBCA) for the 2016 Allstate WBCA Good Works Team.
She was nominated for her various acts of charity which include Volunteering at the Rio Grande Down Syndrome Network and the Ronald McDonald House. She also makes appearances at various New Mexico Autism events and helps with Lobo Fever which is an organization that finds homes for children who are homeless.