UIC will miss ineligible Zavion Neely

Thumbnail image for Zavion Neely on a fast break.

This was a landmark season for UIC junior guard Zavion Neely: He
approached that elite 2:1 assist to turnover ratio, improved his free
throw shooting, and showed himself as a capable leader heading into his
senior season.

That's all in the past tense on purpose, because the NCAA ruled Neely academically
ineligible for the rest of the season following the semester break.

bad news for UIC's burgeoning program, because while Neely is mostly
replaceable in Howard Moore's swing--as bad as that sounds--, the Flames
will sorely miss Neely's role as a spirited vocal leader.

He has
heart. And while I can't prove that Neely is the marshmallow holding
together the smore of UIC under and upperclassmen, I can give you a good

He has
heart. And while I can't prove that Neely is the marshmallow holding
together the smore of UIC under and upperclassmen, I can give you a good

With Howard Moore moving forward with an increasingly
bigger and more frontcourt-heavy lineup, Neely's two guard role has been
backgrounded by the swing. He's a genuine role player getting 17.6
percent of possessions and feeding the post.

This necessitates a hit in Neely's scoring numbers; he tallied 8.3 ppg
this season, down from last season's 12.2 number under Jimmy Collins, that suffered from a poor
raw 34.7 percent shooting mark from the floor.

Senior rising star Dipanjot Singh, who spent his career way down the UIC
bench, filled that shooting void well, filling in for Neely at
Milwaukee in his first-ever career start. Turns out, Singh is a hustled
shooting guard who shoots at a pretty impressive clip--52.3 percent from
the floor and 47.6 percent from three.

Singh is a good fit, if a less effective passer, in Neely's absence, but
UIC is clearly still struggling, losing by 12 and 24 points respectively
since Neely's at-first-mysterious AWOL during the Wisconsin trip.

Neely isn't shy about his feelings. We first learned that in a Tribune interview from last season.

"Zavion is always positive," said [Former UIC Head Coach Jimmy] Collins, whose Flames are 6-18.
"That's something that I didn't know about him until he got here -- how
positive he is, all the time."

So it's no surprise that when the NCAA wouldn't allow Neely to compete, the Flames'
own cheerleader took to Twitter to support his team from across state lines over the weekend in typical fashion.

cmon bros don't get frustrated calm down n bring it back together

i'm thinkin 2nd half go man n slow down the shooting... let's play OUR
defense .. on offense hit the post haven't seen them guard it

really wish i could be helping my brothers out right now... i apologize to y'all

The only third year player on the team (Paris Carter, Dorian Tyler, Darrin Williams and Daniel Barnes are all JUCO transfers), Neely will be depended upon to lead the Flames through thick and lots of thin next season. So it's important that he settle his academic problems now and learn from his mistakes.

We know he's smart--Neely was a member of his high school's Honor Society and outdid most of his peers with a 27 on his ACT. He just needs to stay focused, because they'll need him next season more than ever.

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Tags: UIC, Zavion Neely

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