UALR senior forward Will Neighbour is a man of his word. Just ask Trojans assistant Ed Cunningham.
The 6-foot-10 senior forward had two different chances to back out of his commitment to UALR, but he stood fast.
“I thought about (changing
the commitment), but it was mainly just staying loyal to Coach Cunningham,” the 6-foot-10 Neighbour says. “It was tough sometimes.”
Neighbour grew up in rural England and became infatuated with basketball after playing soccer, tennis and cricket. He joined the Southampton Solent Kestrels club team and it changed his life. Kestrels coach Jimmie Guymon, an NBA and ABA draft pick, helped Neighbour develop his skills and after he grew to 6-foot-7 at age 16, Guymon knew he was ready for a higher level of basketball in the Untied States.
Guymon had sent English players to U.S. colleges before and knew of Cunningham. Cunningham showed interest and after Neighbour enrolled at Central Park Christian School in Birmingham, Ala. and committed to UALR.
After scoring 21 points per game at Central Park other college programs showed interest, including the Alabama-Birmingham, Alabama, Providence and Davidson.
Neighbour honored his commitment but had to attend Daytona (Fla.) State College because his English transcripts didn’t pass through the NCAA clearinghouse. A year of junior college was needed to meet the NCAA’s academic requirements.
Neighour, who grew to 6-10, flourished on the court averaging more than 15 points and 6 rebounds per game and caught the attention of more programs, including Florida and Cincinnati.
“I almost turned around on Florida,” says Neibour who sat down with Sync for a Q&A
last week. “But I said, ‘No,’ to stay with Coach Cunningham. It was tempting to stay in Florida. I always knew I was going to stay with Coach Cunningham and the Trojans, though.”
Things worked out pretty well for Neighbour. He’s been a significant contributor for three seasons and earned second-team All-Sun Belt Conference honors last year. He could be a first-team pick this year with a 16 points per game average. Earlier in the season he became the sixth Trojan in school history to score 1,000 career points. He’s also s just short of becoming the only player in school history to total 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 100 assists and 75 blocks.
The only downside to his senior season was an ankle injury during the middle of the conference season and a separated shoulder that occurred in a win against Texas-Arlington Feb. 22. That injury has left him sidelined, and his status for this week’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament uncertain.
If healthy Neighbour plans to attend the Portsmouth Camp for NBA hopefuls and the NBA Combine. If the NBA doesn’t work out, he’ll turn his sights toward European professional basketball.
No matter what happens, Neighbour is glad he stuck to his commitment.
“There are some great people [at UALR], and they have taken care of me. I may not be any value to them with my shoulder, but they are going to make sure I get the care I need and the surgery if I need it,” Neighbour says. “[UALR] is like a family. It’s been a great experience.”