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Basketball bloodline helps PA's Barlow excel: Pulaski Academy athlete shines in two sports, but stars in football.

Growing up the son of North Carolina basketball player Jeb Barlow, a co-captain on the 1982 Tar Heels' national championship team, one could forgive Neal Barlow if he didn't want to follow in his father's footsteps and play basketball for UNC.

But that wasn't the case, as Barlow grew up wanting to do just that. Still, the ArkansasSports360.com Boys High School Athlete of the Year found a different path: football.

"When we moved to Pulaski Academy in the ninth grade, I just started playing football to meet people," he said. "Turned out playing football was a pretty good choice."

It certainly was, as the 6-foot-6 wide receiver signed with the University of Arkansas in February and is now enrolled in summer classes in Fayetteville.

"Neal's a neat story," said Pulaski Academy coach Kevin Kelley said of the receiver that finished his high school career with 190 receptions for 2,902 yards and 37 touchdowns. "His dad played college basketball with Michael Jordan. Coming here and not being an Arkansas kid, I didn't think he would be a Razorback, but he is."

Initially he wasn't after committing to Kansas over the summer.

"I felt like I rushed that whole decision," Barlow said. "Once I kept thinking about it, I felt uneasy about it and decided to re-open the process."

Barlow finished his senior season with 96 catches for 1,512 yards and 23 touchdowns and capped it off with two touchdown catches in the 5A state championship game as the Bruins won the title 35-32 over Helena-West Helena.

"Very few people can say they won a state championship their senior year, it was a great feeling," said Barlow.

The fact that Barlow even played in that title game was remarkable considering he was battling mononucleosis and that night had a temperature of 102 degrees.

"We were blessed to have a lot of seniors and a lot of leadership on that team," Kelley said, "but he provided a very important piece to that puzzle."

Barlow grew up playing basketball on the AAU circuit and continued his hoops career at Pulaski Academy, earning all-state honors his senior season. He even drew interest from some Sun Belt Conference and Ivy League schools.

Despite his father's basketball background, Barlow said that in the end his parents were "very supportive" of his decision to play football.

"It was a good feeling to get the basketball offers," he said. "I like both sports, but I feel like I had more potential in football. I have played so little compared to others who have been playing since they were little. I feel like I have a lot of room to grow and get better."

Basketball has helped Barlow develop skills on the football field.

"He can manipulate his body at the line of scrimmage and at the same time he can maneuver his body in space and see the field well," Kelley said. "I think a lot of that came from his basketball background.

Barlow agreed with his former coach.

"I grew up playing a lot of AAU basketball, so I was used to have guys hanging all over me when go up for a rebound," he said. "Having that experience has really helped me, especially when going up for passes in the end zone.

TOUGH TO GUARD

NEAL BARLOW

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Growing up the son of a former North Carolina Tar Heel basketball player, basketball was always Barlow's first passion until taking up football, as a ninth-grader. Starting in the fall, Barlow will be Lining up for coach Bobby Petrino's Razorbacks at receiver.

CLASS Senior

HEIGHT 6-6

HOMETOWN Little Rock

JUMP BALLS: Barrow finished his high school career with 190 receptions for 2,902 yards and 37 touchdowns. His 2,902 yards and 37 touchdown receptions receiving rank eighth all-time according to the Arkansas Activities Association record book (he is tied for 8th in touchdown receptions).
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Title Annotation:HIGH SCHOOL: Athlete of the Year: Boys
Author:Seaton, Philip
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Jun 1, 2009
Words:650
Previous Article:Clarke takes Arkansas by storm: transition from small Oklahoma school to big program no hindrance for Fayetteville standout.
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