When most freshmen begin their college basketball
careers, they're usually an unknown commodity. (Other than the the
blue-chip commodities) But in today's age of YouTube, Twitter,
Flipshare, IPhone camcorders etc., one can become a star quite easily
given the right set of circumstances.
Take Illini freshman recruit Meyers Leonard. The seven footer from Robinson, IL is a consensus top 50 recruit and should be one of the most noticeable players in the Big Ten this winter. He teams with Crandall Head and Jereme Richmond
to give the Illini a phenomenal recruiting class. But in addition to
the recruiting hype, Leonard is noteworthy for a special dunk that's
been viewed on YouTube about 50,000 times.
At Illini Media Day, I asked Meyers to recap it for me step-by-step.
"The kid had actually been talking a little trash, probably a
strategy from the coach. I told him to wait and see what was going to
happen, and I just got the ball. They were pressing because apparently
they thought I didn't have any skill," Leonard said of the event that is
the second thing most people bring up to him. (Height is number one,
obviously. But if they know who he is, it's the dunk).
"I took it down the court, into the lane and it was game time from
there. (Illini sophomore) Tyler Griffey texted me later that night and
said wow. So, they thought it was impressive. But now I'm passed that
and trying to get dunks here," he said.
Here's the video:
Leonard had an impressive game and a double-double in the Orange and
Blue Scrimmage. His biggest contribution to this team will be measured
in how his efforts in practice every day push senior Center Mike Tisdale. Sure, Leonard will get his day in the sun in the future, but for now he needs to help make Tis the best he can be.
"Last year I don't think he really had anyone. Now he's got me and
I'm willing to push him every single day, and he's willing to push me to
make each other better," Tisdale said.
Illini Coach Bruce Weber, expounded on the value of now having two 7-footers instead of one around in practice every day.
"I've said since the beginning that the best thing for Mike Tisdale
is Meyers Leonard and the best thing for Meyers Leonard is Mike Tisdale.
It's made Mike concentrate everyday, now he's got somebody banging
with him who's just as tall...it's positive thing no doubt about it. Now
we just need them to be backstops to our defense."
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank