If you are Randy Bennett and you look at the box score of a New Mexico basketball game this year you can't help but think of what could have been. Bennett who has an eye for talent offered Elijah Brown out of California and Cullen Neal out of Albuquerque scholarships to play for him at St. Mary's University. Brown and Neal who had been playing basketball together on the AAU circuit since the 7th grade had often talked about playing for the same school but choose to go to take different paths after high school. .
Neal committed to play for the Gales before Craig Neal got the job as the New Mexico Lobos head coach, and Bennett was nice enough to release Cullen from his scholarship so he can play for his dad. Neal had a good freshman season averaging 7.1 points a game in 19.1 minutes per game but he was playing in the shadow of Kendall Williams, Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow. With the talented trio leaving after the 2013-14 season 2014-15 was supposed to be Neal's break out season but an ankle injury ended his sophomore season after three games.
Brown on the other hand chose to pursue a basketball career at Butler University and play under Brad Stevens who had led the Bulldogs to two Final Four appearances. Brown would be a key cog for one of the nation's best mid major basketball programs but with success comes change, a few days after arriving on campus Brown found out that Stevens would be leaving the school to coach the Boston Celtics in the NBA.
Brown would go on to average 18.8 minutes scoring 6.8 points and grabbing 2.2 rebounds per game. Brown who had been thinking a leaving the school for months decided to leave after have discussions with his dad former NBA coach Mike Brown. Brown chose to transfer to UNM because he felt that Craig Neal could make him a better all-around player, because Brown chose to transfer to another division one program he had to sit out the 2014-2015.
Neal and Brown were both on the bench as the Lobos struggled last year and while Neal was limited as to what he could do Brown was working on his game. The Duo now is the starting backcourt tandem and so far through six games both players' statistical averages are almost identical.
Cullen is averaging 17 points 2.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 31.2 minutes per game while Elijah scores 17.3 points 5.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game in 31.3 minutes per game. They have become a potent scoring duo for the Lobos Brown had his career high of 31 points on 11/15/2015 against New Mexico State while Neal scored his career high of 29 points against Oral Roberts on 12/1/15.
During the first half of the Oral Roberts game in which Cullen Neal had his career high Lobo fans got a glimpse of how potent of a scoring offense the Lobo have when both players are clicking Neal had 19 points and Brown had 14. Both players are still in the infancy of their college careers but both have skills that can translate to the next level.
Neal stands at 6'5 while Brown stands at 6'4 both can player either of the guard spots which benefits the Lobos because when they are on the court they have two guards that can handle and distribute the ball while being able to get open without the ball.
Both players can be streaky scorers Brown has a season low of six points while Neal has a season low of nine. In their only loss season against USC, Brown was 6 of 21 from the floor while Neal was 4 of 17. The first half of the USC game is the worst case scenario when you have high volume scorers they recovered in the second half and eventually cut the lead to 8 but it was too late for the Lobos to have any real shot at winning.
In Brown and Neal, the Lobos have two talented players that will lead the team to many wins in the Next few years.Each will win their share of awards before they are down look for Brown to compete with teammate Tim Williams for Mountain West Conference New Comer of the Year. Cullen and Elijah will be in the conversation for player of the Year if the Lobos keep winning this year.