By Thad Angelloz
The Daily Comet
You wouldn’t think cheerleading would bring an already close family closer.
But according to Krista Neal, that’s exactly what happened after she was chosen to become a New Orleans Hornets Honeybee in July of 2007.
Neal, who has four sisters and one brother, said her family loves to watch her perform at games.
“My mom has always supported me, but because of work my dad missed a lot of my recitals and dances when I was younger,” Neal said. “Since I’ve become a Honeybee he’s had more opportunities to see me dance. My brother and sisters also like to see me dance. It’s a blast for me to have my own fan club.”
Strangely enough, the 20-year-old Honeybee never thought of herself as an NBA cheerleader when she graduated from Hahnville High School.
Despite dancing since the age of 5 and attending American All-Stars dance camp in high school, Neal didn’t give cheerleading much thought as she prepared to enter her freshman year at Nicholls State University.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be doing this right now,” she said.
But after hearing about a Honeybee audition through the Internet, Neal decided to give it a shot.
Surprisingly, Neal soon became a finalist after making her way through two cuts and a thorough interview.
She estimates more than 100 women attended the tryouts.
The dance team ended up keeping 21 women.
“My first plan was to try and be a Saintsation,” Neal said. “After I found out I had missed the tryouts I decided to go to the Honeybee tryouts. I’m a big basketball fan so I thought it would be a good fit for me.”
Former Honeybee and current manager and dance team choreographer, Ashley Deaton, said she knew Neal was right for the job the moment she met her.
“Krista may look like the girl next door off the court, but she really turns it on when she performs,” Deaton said. “You can tell she loves it and that she’s having the time of her life. Because of that you can’t take your eyes off her. She’s the kind of girl we need on the court. This was obvious to us at auditions, so we had to select her for our team.”
Neal doesn’t believe there’s any down side to being a Honeybee.
Her favorite things about being a representative of an NBA franchise are getting to meet different people and having the chance to be a role model for younger girls.
“I know they (young girls) look up to me,” Neal said. “I always think about that in everything that I do.”
After holding down an outside job, dancing and attending Nicholls last year, Neal decided to take a semester off this spring to manage her schedule better.
“It got to be where it was too much,” the elementary education major said. “I’m going to go back to school this summer, but with the way things were for me I thought I needed to drop something for now.”
Although she calls Luling home, Neal’s originally from Houma and still has family members who live in Terrebonne Parish.
Her love of dancing and her so-called “Honeybee family” has made her strongly consider a future beyond the Honeybees.
“I could see myself starting up a dance studio or something,” Neal said. “I really enjoy dancing, and getting the chance to share that with others would be nice.”
Neal credits the New Orleans Hornets organization for making her feel at ease whenever she steps on the court to perform.
“They (team’s administration) genuinely care about us,” Neal said. “They don’t ever put us in an uncomfortable situation and this opportunity has allowed me to do a lot of things out in the community.”