By: Isabel Smith ~Staff Writer~
As Brian Neal heads into his fourth season as head coach and sixth season overall with Xavier women’s basketball, he’s leading the process of building the women’s basketball team into a successful program.
During his tenure as the Musketeers’ head coach, Neal has turned Xavier back into a winning team. In the 2014-15 season, Neal led the Musketeers to an 18-15 record, a 10-win improvement from the previous season. In the 2015- 16 season, the team finished with a 17-13 record. He’s taken Xavier to a postseason tournament for the first time in several seasons, and he coached the team’s first Big East honoree, Briana Glover.
Neal transitioned into his role as head coach after two seasons as an assistant coach. Prior to that, he was the head coach of Thomas More’s women’s basketball team for seven years.
Neal’s extensive experience as a coach has helped him with the turnaround process of Xavier’s team and the transition to the Big East.
Neal will lead the 2016-17 Musketeers through a schedule that features matchups against top teams like Michigan and Wake Forest.
Xavier returns to Fifth Third Arena on Dec. 11 to face crosstown rival Cincinnati. Under Neal’s leadership, last year’s graduating seniors finished their careers 3-1 against the Bearcats.
The Musketeers will also travel to Las Vegas for the Puerto Rico Classic. They’ll face off against Oklahoma, Southern Mississippi and Kennesaw State. Neal has also coached the Musketeers through tournaments in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada that offer the team the opportunity to develop its skills against top teams it wouldn’t normally meet on the court.
Neal has built a strong foundation for a successful program. Redshirt senior guard Raeshaun Gaffney was named to the Preseason All-Big East team. Last season, Gaffney led the Musketeers in scoring with 11.1 ppg and in rebounding with 4.8 rpg. Senior forward Maddison Blackwell also returns to the lineup.
She had a .516 field goal percentage, the fourth highest in the Big East.
Neal and the Musketeers kick off the season on Saturday, Nov. 12, against Tennessee State at Cintas Center in the Lauren Hill TipOff Classic.