NORMAN — Sherri Coale isn’t sure quite how big of a role she played in helping Tyler Neal fulfill his dream of playing basketball at Oklahoma.
But about five years ago, the Sooners’ women’s coach kept running into Neal when she went to watch her son, Colton, play at Norman High and during the summer.
“I just loved the way he shot the ball,” Coale said of Neal, who then played for Putnam City West. “I thought he had great instincts and could really put the ball in the basket.”
Coale also found out from close friend Dan Hays, the Oklahoma Christian University men’s basketball coach, that Neal wanted to play for the Sooners.
Hays really wanted Neal to come play for him, but there wasn’t much turning back once OU got involved.
“It was what Tyler had had his mind set on and was hoping and praying for — who wouldn’t want to help the local school,” said Don Neal, Tyler’s father. “We had a stack here four or five inches tall of envelopes from schools. He just never even bothered opening them.
“He had his mind set on where he’s going.”
So Coale called then-OU men’s coach Jeff Capel and told her about the kid who had the longtime dream of suiting up for the Sooners and who had the shot to do it.
“I don’t know if I was the first person to find out about him,” Coale said. “He may have been on Jeff’s radar. He may have been watching him anyway. I may have been just a small, tiny little vote of confidence. I’d seen him. He’s good. He’s legit.”
Saturday, Neal and Cameron Clark will be honored in a Senior Day ceremony before the Sooners’ 3 p.m. game against Texas in Lloyd Noble Center.
Family and friends of Tyler and the rest of the Neal family are coming from around the country for the event.
“It’s kind of hit me this week,” Tyler said. “It’s a little weird with it not being the absolute last home game, but it’ll be fun.