One thing is for certain. Meyers Leonard of the Portland Trail Blazers doesn’t need 40 minutes to incite a crowd with a posterizing slam dunk or a big shot block.
At just 20 years of age, the former Robinson, Ill., standout who took his talents to Champaign for two years is getting his feet wet at the highest level of basketball.
Close to 300 fans, many of whom watched Leonard take the Maroons to the 2010 IHSA Class 2A state championship, rode on charter buses to watch him battle the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis last week.
Those fans filled a lower-level section of Bankers Life Fieldhouse to watch Leonard shoot around 90 minutes before the game, drawing a big smile to the 7-footer’s face. Leonard obliged by signing autographs up until the very last second his presence was required in the locker room.
“It’s very special. I had my family, best friends here. Just people that I know of in Robinson, people that have been fans for quite a while now. It was pretty awesome to have them here to be able to support me and watch me play in the NBA,” Leonard said.
Leonard is in a positive situation in Portland, playing for mild-mannered coach Terry Stotts on a team with a good mix of veterans and another talented first-round pick — point guard Damian Lillard, the early favorite for Rookie of the Year.
LaMarcus Aldridge and J.J. Hickson get a majority of the minutes at center and power forward, but Leonard can spell them with production at both ends of the floor. Leonard leads NBA rookies with his shooting percentage of 53.3 percent while ranking fourth among first-year players in blocked shots at 1.0 per game.
“I came into a very good situation. I have the ability to learn, but I also have the ability to come in and impact games. LaMarcus has been an All-Star. J.J. can really rebound,” Leonard said. “Our big-man coach Kim Hughes, who I’m really close with, has taught me a lot.”
Leonard has scored in double figures three times this season, scoring 12 twice and 11 once — all during a nine-day span in late November.
“He’s already improved a month-and-a-half into the season,” Stotts said. “It’s an adjustment. He’s still a young player learning the NBA game, learning personnel. My expectations are that he competes and he plays hard and continues to improve.”
An Easten Conference scout expressed doubts about Leonard as a rebounder as the athletic big man got just one in the Blazers’ 99-92 loss at Indiana. The same scout also praised Leonard’s fearlessness on the court, meaning Leonard knows he belongs.
Leonard has skills that will be refined in time.
Against Indiana’s veteran front line, Leonard struggled to deal with the savvy veterans on the glass a couple times. The Pacers’ Tyler Hansbrough got the best of Leonard with some rugged play, but Leonard also showed he can be an excellent weakside shot blocker, swatting Gerald Green’s attempt in the lane with his left hand.
It’s plays like that — in addition to the chiseled frame and the high-flying alley-oop finishes — that have everyone raving about Leonard’s potential.
Portland veteran Jared Jeffries said Leonard’s eagerness to learn and work should equate to reaching that potential.
“His energy, man. He has a great passion for the game and I think his upside is incredible,” Jeffries said. “He’s so athletic, moves well. He’s a really good passer for his size. The biggest thing he’ll have a chance to do from here on out is improve. It’s good working with guys like that.”
Leonard made huge strides from his sophomore year to senior year in high school. His upbeat approach to improving helped him become a blue-chip recruit for former University of Illinois coach Bruce Weber.
He can see that improvement helping him earn playing time in Portland as well. The Blazers rank last in the NBA in bench scoring and 29th in the league in rebounding off the bench. So they could use a little added punch from guys like Leonard.
“He’ll grow into those minutes,” Stotts said. “We’re deep at the 4-5. LaMarcus is going to play [heavy minutes]. … There’s a lot to learn for young guys. The mental aspect of the game is underrated. The veterans that have been around a long time, know the game, know the players, they can see things happening before it happens.”
Leonard is confident his progression as a pro will be steady.
“For a rookie, I’ve made pretty good strides … certainly for a big man,” Leonard said. “It’s all about in-game situations, beginning to understand the game, the flow of the game, how to guard different things, how to score and find different angles on offense, just getting better in general, so I feel like I’ve made good progress. But there’s still a lot of hard work ahead of me. That’s something I’ve always been able to do, always work hard and continue to better myself. I hope for a positive future.”
Leonard is still getting acclimated to the grind of playing in the NBA. The game in Indiana was the last of a seven-game road trip.
“After this road trip, I would say the travel. We had a couple road games, but nothing like this,” Leonard said. “It was an 11-day road trip. It was kind of hectic, a lot of different hotel rooms. Finding good things to eat, staying hydrated, just everything. You’ve really got to take care of your body and stay mentally locked in or you’re going to wear yourself down.”
A pretty good passing big man himself, Jeffries likes Leonard’s feel for the game.
“Every player struggles with the speed of that game. The game is so much faster than college, that it takes you for a while to adjust, for the game to slow down. It’ll do that for him. He’s good enough, he’s skilled enough that eventually the game will slow down and he’ll be every to play at a very high level. He sees the court really well. He knows where to move on the court,” Jeffries said.
While Portland has some young talent, the Blazers find themselves 9-12 and in last place in the Northwest Division. On the bright side, their record was even with the L.A. Lakers through Monday’s games.
The way Lillard is playing along with Aldridge and high-upside guys like Nicolas Batum and J.J. Hickson, Portland is a team to watch for in the future.
They’ll definitely be watching in Crawford County, Illinois.
“He’s the talk of the town,” said Les Wilson, an assistant coach on Robinson’s state champion team of 2010. Wilson was among the contingent of fans who made the drive to Indianapolis.
“We’re very, very proud of him, not only as a basketball player but as a citizen and a good community person. He can’t complain. He’s playing pretty well. He’ll learn the ropes and get better every year.”
Robinson, Ill., native welcomed in Indianapolis by hometown fans
One thing is for certain. Meyers Leonard of the Portland Trail Blazers doesn’t need 40 minutes to incite a crowd with a posterizing slam dunk or a big shot block.
Bradley ends 16-game MVC losing streak against ISU
Momentum was the only thing riding on Indiana State’s baseball game against Bradley on Friday. With a five-game winning streak going, ISU wanted to keep the good vibes going into next week’s Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
ISU couldn’t do it.
Behind 16 hits and Manaea's pitching, ISU beats Bradley
Indiana State’s baseball team rode a wild ride of emotion on Thursday.
First came the public announcement that Bob Warn Field would host the 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. Later, Sean Manaea’s availability to pitch ISU’s series opener against Bradley was in doubt.
Indiana State women add five transfers, including experienced D-I point guard
Indiana State coach Teri Moren believes the addition of five more newcomers to the program — in addition to the five who had already joined the program earlier this calendar year — will provide her coaching staff the athleticism and depth it needs to play a successful, up-tempo brand of basketball next season.
Metro roundup: Woods softball takes seventh in national tournament
The St. Mary-of-the-Woods softball team finished seventh in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association softball tournament on Tuesday at Firestone Stadium.
Metro Roundup: Indiana State’s Shakir Bell on Performance Awards watch list
College Football Performance Awards has announced its watch list for the 2013 CFPA FCS Running Back Award, and Indiana State’s Shakir Bell earned a spot on the list.
ISU baseball team builds on success with 14-2 rout
Indiana State’s baseball victory over Alcorn State on Friday would take on more meaning Saturday if the Sycamores could build momentum and pick up on the good work they did in Friday’s ninth-inning rally.
The Sycamores were aggressive from the opening inning at the plate and starting pitcher Devin Moore gave them eight valuable and effective innings on the mound as ISU defeated Alcorn State 14-2 at Bob Warn Field.
“It was a really good experience for everybody. It felt great to finally come out here and put some things together. It’s also really nice when your offense puts a lot of runs on the board,” Moore said.
Moore’s eight innings of work were as valuable as gold to an ISU team that is short on quality arms due to injury and ineffectiveness. He didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning and one of the two runs he conceded was unearned.
Johnson, Lyke win MVC titles for ISU
Indiana State’s Felisha Johnson and Maurice Lyke were both crowned Missouri Valley Conference champions on Saturday during the MVC Track and Field Championships at Drake University.
ISU earns badly-needed win
Alcorn State’s baseball team might be ranked in the bottom 10 in RPI and Indiana State might have never lost to a Southwestern Athletic Conference team. So it wouldn’t appear that a quality win was in the offing when Alcorn State visited Bob Warn Field on Friday.
Metro roundup: RHIT’s Evans sets Div. III record in high jump
For the third time this season, Rose-Hulman senior Liz Evans topped the NCAA Division III all-time national record in the outdoor high jump Friday night.
ISU’s Mascari and Hope win MVC track & field titles
Indiana State produced two champions during the opening day of action in the Missouri Valley Conference track and field championships Friday at Drake. Freshman John Mascari, a Terre Haute native, won the men’s 10,000-meter race and Nicole Hope won the women’s pole vault for the second time in three seasons.
ISU pole vault tradition continues with help from its author
Pole vault is track and field for the adrenaline junkie, Indiana State senior Nicole Hope proclaimed during a recent practice at Marks Field.
To catapult oneself about 14 feet into the air with a large $500 fiberglass pole on a daily basis is a risky endeavor.
“We have to be fearless. You can’t be afraid at all,” said Hope, who has also catapulted herself into the NCAA’s elite in the event, ranking 15th in the NCAA with her leap of 13-feet, 9 1/4.
Sycamores searching for answers after seventh loss in eight games
These are the bad times for the Indiana State baseball team.
The will is there for the Sycamores to pull out of their worst slump of the season, but the results are not. The suffering continued on Wednesday at Bob Warn Field as Eastern Illinois defeated ISU 5-3.
METRO ROUNDUP: ISU men's track picked first in MVC Championships, women second
The Indiana State men’s track team has won the last two Missouri Valley Conference outdoor championships, but the women have not stood on the top podium since 1999.
That may change this year, but the Sycamores will face some stiff competition in their quest for the championships.
North grad Welker helps Whitson earn first NCAA bid as coach
Eastern Kentucky girls golf coach Mike Whitson, an alumnus of his employer, enjoyed his stay in Terre Haute as coach of Indiana State, where he started the women’s golf program.
METRO ROUNDUP: Rose-Hulman wins HCAC all-sports trophy
Rose-Hulman has won the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference men’s all-sports trophy for the fifth time in the past six year, the league announced Monday.
Rose tallied 66.5 points for its finishes in 11 men’s sports, just ahead of Franklin with 66. Hanover was third with 53 points.
METRO ROUNDUP: Rose-Hulman tennis falls in HCAC semifinal
Rose-Hulman’s hot streak in men’s tennis came to an end Saturday in the semifinal round of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament at the West Indy Racquet Club.
Manaea fights off bad hip, wet weather to toss four innings
Mother Nature has been the bane of the Indiana State baseball team’s existence all season. Eight games wiped due to weather are a testament to that. So it was no surprise, though no less disappointing, when she didn’t deal Indiana State pitcher Sean Manaea the greatest hand on Saturday as he tries to recover from a hip injury.
ISU track enjoys big night at IU's Billy Hayes Invitational
The Indiana State Sycamores either won or finished as the top collegian in 12 events, led by the record-breaking performance of senior Brandon Pounds at the 2013 Billy Hayes Invitational Friday at Indiana University.
Pounds broke his own school record to win the men’s hammer throw.
Lansing looking for more home games for next fall
Indiana State’s men’s basketball team is looking for a few good games.
Home games that is.
The Sycamores have filled in most of the blanks in their nonconference schedule, but as ever, ISU coach Greg Lansing would like to visit the friendly confines of Hulman Center a bit more often.
Secret weapon: Kelsey Rosselli finishing Woods career with a bang
At Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, reporting game results to the Tribune-Star after a win or a loss is not always a high priority.
So when one of its athletes enjoys an outstanding season, like senior Kelsey Rosselli is doing for the Pomeroys’ softball team in 2013, media publicity doesn’t always follow.
In fact, her efforts almost seem like a government secret.
Rosselli’s name might sound familiar to longtime Terre Haute softball followers because she was a standout for North High School, from where she graduated in 2009.
Since then, she’s helped The Woods finish runner-up in three straight U.S. Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) national tournaments in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
ISU baseball gets back into rhythm with victory
Baseball is a rhythm game. With contests every day or five times a week in the case of many college programs, you have the chance to build on success or wallow in a slump.
Mother Nature took that rhythm away from Indiana State’s team last week. After a 7-1 loss to Indiana on April 24, ISU was supposed to play a three-game series at Tennessee-Martin, but it was wiped out by rain.
So the rhythm was disturbed, but perhaps that wasn’t a bad thing.
ISU was in a five-game losing streak before its unintended vacation and the Sycamores made a move in the right direction Wednesday with a 7-0 win over DePauw at Bob Warn Field.
“It was a disappointing weekend. We went all the way down to Tennessee and didn’t get to play. We sat around in the hotel room. We came here and it was still raining. It was nice to get out and see some live pitching,” ISU center fielder Landon Curry said.
Metro roundup: ISU hands out spring awards
The Indiana State University athletic community, along with family, friends and fans, paused Tuesday night to honor the spring sports teams at the Terre Haute Savings Bank Spring Sports Banquet.
Most of the ISU teams are still in competition with the baseball team having 13 games left of its regular-season schedule before beginning the Missouri Valley Conference tournament May 21, the softball team with just three games left of the docket this coming weekend against Southern Illinois and the track and field program with just one more meet before beginning its postseason events.
The ISU women’s golf team is the team that has ended at this time, with the group recording a sixth-place finish at the MVC championships one week ago.
METRO ROUNDUP: Rose baseball wins another thriller
Rose-Hulman earned its third victory in its last at-bat in the last five days with a 6-5 win over Franklin in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference baseball Tuesday night at Art Nehf Field.
ISU relay teams enjoy strong day at Drake Relays
It was a day for the relay teams to shine at the 104th Drake Relays Saturday as four of the five Indiana State relay teams that competed ran times that put the team among the top five in school history for their respective events.
Indiana State baseball series canceled
Heavy rain from Thursday through Saturday has forced Indiana State and Tennessee Martin to cancel their three-game weekend baseball series in northwest Tennessee.
Metro roundup; Five Wabash Valley players on Terre Haute Rex team
The Terre Haute Rex will look to three-peat as Prospect League Western Division champions with a roster that includes a quartet of Wabash Valley players. Indiana State University standouts Tyler Wampler and Josh Dove will reunite with former Little League and high school rivals Cody Gardner (Wright State), Tim Johnson (Vincennes) and Bryan Nacke (Vincennes) for the summer season.
Indiana State loses 2 in MVC softball
Indiana State aspired to upset Illinois State to get at least a doubleheader split in Missouri Valley Conference softball Thursday at Price Field as the Sycamores opened an eight-game season-ending homestand.
Paige Schreiner hit a two-run blast over the left-field fence in the fifth inning and junior Shelby Wilson delivered a sizzling RBI triple down the right-field line in the sixth as ISU ended the day playing well against the league’s highest-scoring offense.
The result was still a 5-3 loss to the Redbirds (26-18, 11-6 Missouri Valley Conference) as freshman Halle Humphrey gave up four runs in the first two innings. Humphrey, called upon to pitch the opener as well — she’s the only full-time pitcher remaining on the team — gave up six runs and eight hits as the Sycamores dropped a 6-1 game to start the day.
Sycamores fall: Slumping ISU drops 8-1 decision to No. 19-ranked IU
The margin in baseball between success and failure is so tight.
Indiana State learned that lesson the hard way against No. 19-ranked Indiana on Wednesday.
For most of the contest, ISU matched IU hit-for-hit, but couldn’t match the Hoosiers run-for-run as IU took maximum advantage of its baserunners to post an 8-1 victory at IU’s new Bart Kaufman Field.
IU — winners of four in a row and owners of a 19-game win streak earlier this season — proved its quality by putting the foot on the gas in the last three innings of the contest. The Hoosiers scored five of their runs in that period.
But up until that point, the game was in either team’s hands, but the Hoosiers took it with better situational hitting. IU’s first baserunners in three separate innings came around to score; two of them did so with two outs on the board.
Creek latest to leave IU’s basketball program
Just a few weeks ago, one of the big questions surrounding Indiana University basketball was how the Hoosiers would contend with too many players and not enough scholarship spots.
That’s not a problem for coach Tom Crean anymore.
As of now, the Hoosiers are one scholarship under the 13-scholarship limit after Wednesday’s announcement that Maurice Creek was leaving the program.
Creek has another season of college eligibility, but chose to leave Indiana to seek more playing time. He’ll graduate from IU next week and will try to play elsewhere as a graduate student immediately.
“I feel like I would have a better opportunity for more playing time at another school where I can be eligible right away,” Creek said in a press release announcing his departure.
Metro roundup: ISU baseball’s Alumni Weekend coming in May
The Indiana State baseball team will be hosting its Alumni Weekend on May 16-18, with its annual golf outing taking place May 17 at Idle Creek Golf Course.
The Sycamores will be host to Bradley on May 16-18 before heading to the Missouri Valley Conference tournament at Normal, Ill., the following week.
Idle Creek (5353 Eldridge Road) will be hosting the golf outing again, with registration and lunch starting at 11 a.m. before the event tees off at noon. Individuals can register for $100 with a foursome costing $400. Package A includes a foursome and a hole sponsorship for $500 while an individual hole sponsorship costs $150. Lunch, a cart and an Indiana State baseball cap will be included for all the golfers.
Beginning May 1, Indiana State plays 12 of its final 13 regular-season games on Bob Warn Field at Sycamore Stadium, including weekend series against Evansville (May 3-5), Alcorn State (May 10-12) and Bradley (May 16-18).
For more information on Alumni Weekend or the golf outing, contact ISU assistant coach Tyler Herbst at 812-237-4090 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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