BELIZE CITY, Thurs. July 29, 2021– Our sincere condolences from the sports desk to brother Hubert “Butty” Neal and other members of the Neal family on the reported passing on Tuesday of his brother and my former classmate at SJC, Mark Neal, who has resided in Florida, USA, for a number of years. Markie was one of the top basketball players in 1970s Belize, a point guard, probably not as renowned as his elder brother, Butty, who was a powerful center on Belize City champion teams, Dunlop and Baygon, in the late sixties and early seventies. There were some epic battles on the old St. Ignatius court between the veteran Dunlop and an upstart young Carnation team, with Dunlop prevailing. Then there arose some other legendary teams of the seventies like Old Parr, Grand Marnier, Incatecu, Wheels and later The Happy Homebuilders.
According to his legendary teammate Evondale “Coby” Coburn, Markie played for Old Parr up until 1974 (they were senior champions in 1972 and 1974), and stayed with the core group which then became Grand Marnier.
Coby said he himself was not around for Grand Marnier, as he migrated to the U.S. after the 1974 Old Parr championship season at ‘Natius. Coby shared with us some pictures (provided by Markie) and some biographical notes garnered from Facebook on Markie’s 1978 basketball season with Grand Marnier. By then, basketball had already moved to Bird’s Isle. Some Facebook excerpts below:
“MARK NEAL – Grand Marnier – Guard.
“Mark started to play in the senior division in 1972 and was one of the key men in leading his team to the championship in his rookie year. He has been on the All-Star selection since, except for two years when he was transferred out of town… He is a very defensive guard and connects with key basket when his team needs it. He also leads his team in Assists. He has represented Belize in Santo Domingo and Ciudad del Carmen, and missed the Salvador tour because of his transfer…”
In his Belizean Legends column, also on Facebook, Bilal Morris commented on a meeting with Markie some years ago in Miami, Florida:
“He was a very cool and humble Belizean brother who showed so much respect to many of his Belizean basketball colleagues and competitors who had come to play the game…”
After some years in the public service as a Customs Officer, Markie migrated to Miami, Florida, USA, where he had since resided with other members of his family.
Once again, we join the basketball community in expressing our sincere condolences to his family. Rest In Peace, champion, brother Mark Neal!