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Jamiya Neal poised for a breakout year

© James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona State’s Jamiya Neal might be a player that’s flying under everyone’s radar this offseason with all of the Sun Devil’s new additions.

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The 6-foot-6 Neal is now going into his third season with ASU. The guard/small forward committed to the Sun Devils out of Hillcrest Prep in the class of 2021 as a three-star recruit.

He is one of the rare players in college basketball that have stuck it out at a school for so long.

“It’s my third year here, that’s like a 10-year vet nowadays with all the transfers and everything,” Neal said. “So I think I got all the answers to the coach (Bobby) Hurley test. I think it’s kind of easier for me to be a leader because I know what it looks like. I know how he wants to done, so I can tell these guys exactly how it needs to be. So I think it’s just about time.”

Following ASU’s 23-win season and NCAA Tournament run last season, Neal entered the transfer portal after a great end to the season.

However, he decided to remove his name from the portal come back to ASU just a couple weeks later. He will be only the third returning Sun Devil, joining Frankie Collins and Alonzo Gaffney.

In terms of his decision to come back, Neal told the media Tuesday that some of the factors that led to him returning were: “the relationship with coach, the freedom of play, the play style, everything. Just here (at ASU), I feel like me and Frankie can show our talents and be ourselves.”

Hurley was very happy to get Neal back, as Neal looks to continue to develop into an NBA-level player.

“There are examples of guys like a Jamiya Neal that want to be here,” Hurley said. “He’s looking at this, like he wants to be a pro. He thinks our style of play, and the growth and the development that he’s seen in his game over a couple of years that that’s his bigger picture than a one time payout in NIL. So that’s why he’s back here. I think he saw what he was capable of doing late in the season. And he knew this was the place for him to continue to grow and develop. So he might have a chance one day to be an NBA player.”

In terms of NIL, Neal shared a few of his thoughts on it.

“Some things are waiting for,” Neal said. “Some people out here just trying to chase money and get the biggest bag, but that’s not what it’s always about. Sometimes it’s about investing in your future. And I think staying here was a good investment for both (himself and Collins) of our futures.”

For the 2022-23 season, Neal played in 31 games and averaged 4.9 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 0.7 steals on 42/29/63 splits in 16.2 minutes per game.

However, during both the Pac-12 Tournament and NCAA Tournament, Neal averaged a combined 9.6 points and shot 43.8% from downtown in five games. His best game of the year came in the First Four matchup against Nevada when he had a career-high 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting and added four rebounds and three steals. 

Neal will have a perfect chance to shine for ASU this upcoming season and will likely start after just one start over the last two years.

Hurley wants Neal and all of the returners to recognize that their voices hold a lot of value for the 2023-24 team.

“We’re coming off a 23-win season, so the guys we’re bringing back have credibility because you’ve had a successful season and when these guys are talking, it has meaning,” Hurley said.

Neal is more than welcoming to the added pressure of being a leader and taking on a larger role on the court.

“I think (I have to step up in) probably every part to be honest,” Neal said. “For me and Frankie, it’s just gonna be leading by example and showing these guys the Hurley way. And as far as our play on the court, we are gonna have to do everything: play defense, rebound, get our teammates involved and put the ball in the basket. So just taking the jump in all of the categories is gonna be big for both of us.”

Hot take: Neal will surprise a lot of people and lead the Sun Devils in scoring in 2023-24 and make an All-Pac-12 Team.

Recently, Neal has been dominating the local Swish Pro-Am, as he had 47-point and 45-point performances while teaming up with Collins.

Hurley had jokes for Neal about his scoring outbursts.

“I had to remind him when I played in the Jersey Shore summer league back in the day, I had 50 points and that was my top my high game,” Hurley said. “I know you’ve had 47 and 45, but it’s not 50, so good luck to you trying to get that.”

Neal will miss the Cambridge brothers, as Desmond was out of eligibility and went to the NBA, while Devan transferred to Texas Tech. At times, he was called the third Cambridge brother.

It is likely he will take Desmond’s spot in the starting lineup. However, he doesn’t want to be compared to him in terms of play style.

“I probably won’t ever just chuck up the ball like Des(mond Cambridge) did, he was a different type of shooter,” Neal joked. “So me and Des is different.”

He added: “But I do think I’ve shown times throughout the season, especially last year where I could go put the ball in the basket, and I do think I will take more shots this year … I’ve been working a lot on my jump shot, on my catch-and-shoots just to be a more consistent shooter. This year is (definitely) going to be more of a Des type of role, but in my own way. I’m back to (being) Neal, the Cambridge’s gone. Man, I’m still gonna put on for us though.”

Bobby Hurley, ASU basketball excited for “once-in-a-lifetime” trip to Europe

It’s unclear how the Sun Devil depth chart will end up taking shape, but one thing is for sure: Neal’s time is now, and he will be a significant factor into how well ASU performs and how far they can go next season. First things first is the team’s upcoming European tour.

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Brendan Mau is a college sports insider and general assignment reporter for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on Twitter via @Brendan_Mau

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