ASU Sun Devil Lester Neal finally gets diploma - FOX 35 News Orlando

ASU Sun Devil Lester Neal finally gets diploma

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TEMPE, Ariz. -

An ASU athlete shot for the stars -- only to fall short. 20 years ago Lester Neal was named the MVP of Sun Devil men's basketball.

He chased after a pro ball career, but lost himself running after a dream. Today, he has no regrets, because he earned something no one can take away from him. His bachelor's degree.

"It's been a long time coming."

ASU Sun Devil Lester Neal, head held high, collected his diploma Wednesday.

"It took me 2012 to get it done."

We have to back up 20 years to find out why it took Neal so long to get where he is today.

In 1993, Neal was part of the Sun Devils basketball team under Bill Fieder. He shot 484 rebounds, the 4th-most by a two-year player in Sun Devil history.

His future looked bright, but he was too anxious to start an NBA career.

"It was that last year of school, my senior year was done and I withdrew from class, you know, that last semester in March and school was about to be done in May which was a bad idea."

Playing ball for the NBA didn't work out, so Neal took his talent to the hard courts of Europe.

"Growing up I never knew that I would be able to go visit Paris and Turkey and Belgium and Switzerland so it was an unbelievable experience."

The dream fell flat when Neal suffered a career ending injury in 1996. That's when he realized dropping out of college was a mistake.

"I went to ASU, I played sports at ASU, I didn't have that paper and it really held me back."

It took 10 more years for Neal to find his way back to ASU.

"Once I got going I tell ya I picked up on it and I loved it… I even made the dean's list twice so that was cool."

Neal is thinking of earning his master's degree, but for now he just wants to encourage other college athletes to not make the same mistakes he has made.

"Make sure you do not leave, you know, without getting your bachelors BA degree, cause you're going to look back when life really starts for you. When you get older you'll wish you would have had that degree."

FOX 10's Jude LaCava has more.

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