By Jason Dobkin
NBA journeyman shooting guard Gary Neal is coming home.
After bouncing around the league and playing for four different teams during his five-year NBA career -- and three in the past two seasons -- Neal will spend the 2015-16 season in Washington, D.C. The Baltimore native signed a one-year, $2.1 million deal with the Washington Wizards July 3.
After reaching the agreement, the first person Neal shared the news with was his wife, Leah.
"She was super excited," Neal said July 8 on Glenn Clark Radio. "Just knowing, you know, where I come from -- and me being a family guy and really just enjoying being in that area in the summertime when the season is over -- she was just so excited that I was able to come home and sign with the Wizards."
Neal played high school ball at Aberdeen in Harford County and spent one year at Calvert Hall College High School. During his junior season at Aberdeen, he carried the Eagles to a 21-4 record and a state championship while averaging a triple-double.
Neal started his college career at La Salle, leading the Explorers in scoring during his two seasons with the team. He averaged 18.6 points per game his freshman year and earned Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year honors, and he put up 17.9 points per game during his sophomore season.
La Salle dismissed Neal from its basketball program before his junior year after a University of New Haven women's basketball player brought rape allegations against him, and he transferred to Towson. He sat out the 2004-05 season and earned a spot as a walk-on for the 2005-06 season after he was acquitted.
Towson gave Neal a scholarship for 2006-07, and he averaged 25.3 points that year, making the All-Colonial Athletic Association first team and leading the Tigers to the second round of the CAA tournament, where they lost to Old Dominion. He also earned a spot in the NCAA record books that year, becoming only the fourth basketball player in NCAA history to score 1,000 points for two different schools.
Neal said he's "extremely thankful and grateful for Towson," and that he wants to help the program more now that he's back in the area.
"It's just like I told [Towson head basketball coach Pat] Skerry, if they ever needed me to do anything, I'd be the first guy on the front line for them," Neal said.
Neal went undrafted after graduating from Towson and played overseas until 2010, when the San Antonio Spurs signed him to a three-year deal. He then played for the Milwaukee Bucks, Charlotte Bobcats and Minnesota Timberwolves before signing with the Wizards.
Neal said Wizards point guard John Wall's skill and willingness as a passer, the opportunity for more playing time due to the departure of small forward Paul Pierce and the Wizards' recent success made the decision to sign with the team an easy one.
"I think being out of the playoffs … for these past two years, it kind of made me really reevaluate my priorities and what I needed to do as far as choosing a team, you know, to put myself in a good situation," Neal said.
Neal said he hasn't had the chance to go to a Towson game since the team started playing in its new arena, SECU Arena, in 2013 because of scheduling conflicts with his playing career. But he's planning to change that.
"I'm going to make a lot of games," Neal said. "I'm going to make Towson's games. I'm going to make Calvert Hall's games. I'm going to make a couple Aberdeen games, just because I'm in town."