POY WATCH: New Mexico boys basketball

POY WATCH: New Mexico boys basketball

Gatorade Player of the Year

POY WATCH: New Mexico boys basketball

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The window on the Gatorade State Boys Basketball Player of the Year race is closing, and the search for elite student-athletes is in full swing. The award recognizes not only athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field. Here are two top candidates who meet the basic award criteria as determined by our USA TODAY team that administers the program’s selection process.

Cullen Neal
Senior combo guard, Eldorado (Albuquerque, N.M.)

2012-13 Team record: 7-3 (Class 5A)
2012-13 Team standing: Defending Class 5A state champions

2011-12 Points per game: 27.7
2011-12 Rebounds per game: 5.0
2011-12 Assists per game: 4.5
2011-12 Steals per game: 1.1
2011-12 Blocks per game: 0.4

Collegiate destination: St. Mary’s (verbal)

How he’s played himself into the State POY conversation: The reigning Gatorade New Mexico Boys Basketball Player of the Year, Neal led the Eagles to the 2012 Class 5A state title as a junior, shooting better than 53 percent from the floor on 2-point shots and 81 percent from the free throw line. Neal scored 34 points (12-for-21 shooting) in last season’s state title game against rival La Cueva (Albuquerque, N.M.).

Bryce Alford
Senior guard, La Cueva (Albuquerque, N.M.)

2012-13 Team record: 11-1 (Class 5A)
2012-13 Team standing: Defending Class 5A state finalists

2011-12 Points per game: 24.6
2011-12 Assists per game: 5.2
2011-12 Rebounds per game: 4.1
2011-12 Steals per game: 2.0

Collegiate destination: New Mexico (verbal)

How he’s played himself into the State POY conversation: The son of University of New Mexico head basketball coach Steve Alford, the younger Alford helped the Bears reach the Class 5A state final in 2012 as a junior. He is a two-time First Team All-State selection who scored a game-high 38 points in the state title game last season.

Make no mistake, the Gatorade State Boys Basketball Player of the Year race isn’t over yet. Time remains for one standout student-athlete among thousands to rise to the top of our list. Here are some more of many who’ve been in the conversation throughout the 2012-13 campaign.

Matt Barela: Junior forward, St. Michael’s (Santa Fe, N.M.)
Jim Coleman: Senior shooting guard, Tularosa (N.M.)
John Dawson: Senior point guard, Clovis (N.M.)

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POY WATCH: New Mexico boys basketball
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