Undrafted and undaunted, Spurs’ Neal named to All-Rookie first team

By Jeff McDonald

Gary Neal’s remarkable NBA journey has passed another significant signpost.

From undrafted to first-team All-Rookie.

Neal, the 26-year-old Spurs guard, earned that designation Wednesday by vote of all 30 NBA coaches. Joining him on the first team were L.A. Clippers forward Blake Griffin — the newly crowned Rookie of the Year — Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins, Washington guard John Wall and New York guard Landry Fields.

Passed over by every NBA team after finishing his collegiate career at Towson University in 2007, and having spent the previous three seasons hopscotching around European Leagues, Neal became only the second undrafted player in league history to make All-Rookie first team.

The first was Jorge Garbajosa, who earned the honor in 2006-07 with Toronto.

Neal joined the Spurs as a free agent in July after starring in the Las Vegas Summer League.

“We’ve had a lot of guys over the years we’ve wanted to fit into roles that we thought wanted to prove something,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s one of those guys. He’s taken advantage of that opportunity.”

A key member of the Spurs’ backcourt rotation, Neal averaged 9.8 points and hit 41.9-percent from 3-point range in his inaugural NBA season. In the process, he snapped franchise rookie records for 3-point percentage and 3-pointers made (129), and finished third on the club’s all-time rookie list for free-throw percentage (80.8 percent).

Neal’s most enduring moment came in Game 5 of the Spurs’ first-round playoff series against Memphis, when he buried a game-tying 3-pointer as time expired to force overtime. The Spurs won 110-103 in the extra frame and kept their season alive for one more game.

Neal is the ninth Spurs player to make an All-Rookie team and the sixth first-teamer. He is the first Spurs player to earn first-team accolades since Tony Parker in 2001-02.


Spurs guard Gary Neal went from undrafted free agent to the NBA’s All-Rookie first team, something only one other free agent (FA) has ever done. Here are the top rookies with their draft position:

First team
Blake Griffin Clippers 1st
John Wall Wizards 1st
Landry Fields Knicks 39th
D. Cousins Kings 5th
Gary Neal Spurs FA

Second team
Greg Monroe Pistons 7th
Wes. Johnson T-wolves 4th
Eric Bledsoe Clippers 18th
Derrick Favors Jazz 3rd
Paul George Pacers 10th

Leave a Reply