NaTasha Neal Moore grew up in Springfield playing a variety of sports. Softball. Track. Volleyball. She tried them all. But her path to basketball stardom was written in the stars long before she ever graced the earth.
Born in Portugal while her parents were playing professional basketball, Neal Moore had basketball in her heart from the start.
“I guess you could say from the beginning it was in my blood,” she said.
Neal Moore eventually developed into one of the top prep players in Missouri, leading Kickapoo High School to a 28-4 record in her senior year, and the 2001 State Championship. She went on to play for her father at Evangel and won 118 games while scoring more than 2,600 points and earning NAIA All-America honors in each of her four seasons with the Valor.
For her excellence on the court, the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame proudly inducted Neal Moore as a member of the Class of 2023.
At the age of four, Neal Moore and her family moved to Springfield after her father, legendary Evangel player and coach Leon Neal (MSHOF 2017), accepted a coaching position at his alma mater. Her path toward basketball was nearly complete.
“Evangel was like my second home and the people that worked there were like family,” Neal Moore said. “I remember running around the gym and through the halls as a kid. I’d always get scared of the Crusader in the glass case and run a little faster when I’d see it.”
Neal Moore began to focus on basketball in eighth grade. A knee injury nearly knocked her out of the sport. But it also strengthened her resolve and her faith.
“I tore my meniscus and that was a really difficult season for me,” she said. “I struggled with my faith and wondering why the Lord would allow suffering in this way. I was very upset and angry, but my parents loved on me, prayed with me, and encouraged me daily.”
Neal Moore was able to overcome her injury and her basketball career took off once she entered high school at Kickapoo.
“I remember my freshman year we went undefeated on the JV squad, and it was just a fun group of girls,” Neal Moore said. “We had a great group of older girls that really took us under their wings and showed us the ropes. They expected us to work hard and that set a good foundation for the success of our teams.”
At Kickapoo, Neal Moore was coached by Sue Schuble (MSHOF 1998). Not surprisingly, her favorite memory of her time with the Lady Chiefs was winning the state title.
“It was a very special experience playing in a large arena,” Neal Moore said. “The intensity of the game was thrilling, and I remember being overcome with joy and excitement at what we had accomplished.”
Neal Moore credits her parents with having a tremendous impact on her basketball career and that impact continued when she joined her father at Evangel and helped propel the Valor into one of the NAIA’s top women’s basketball programs.
“My dad expected a lot from me because he knew I was capable of it, and the confidence he had in me drove me to work harder, persevere, and strive for excellence,” she said. “My mom was the great encourager that I needed. She was always there to pick me up when I would get discouraged and speak truth to me. They were also great Godly examples for me as I was growing in my faith.”
Neal’s truth at Evangel was clear from the start. She earned Heart of America Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year honors in 2002 and was named HAAC Player of the Year each of the next three seasons. Overall, Evangel was 118-30 in her four seasons, including an astounding 74-6 in conference player.
Evangel made the NAIA Tournament all four years, and the 2005 team reached the Final Four.
“I never imagined my time at Evangel would have brought the accolades and accomplishments that it did,” she said.
Evangel meant more than basketball for Neal Moore. It’s where she met her future husband, Anthony, a member of the men’s basketball team. The couple now have three young boys.
Neal Moore was “surprised and honored” when she received the call about induction into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
“Having attended my dad’s induction years earlier made the news that much sweeter,” she said. “I feel very blessed to have been given the ability to play this amazing game, and I thank the Lord for the opportunities I had to fail and succeed.”