Playing against smaller school competition, the 6-9 Criswell was expected to put up huge numbers and his usual seat behind the bench for several Kansas home games made him that much easier to notice. Unfortunately, things didn't go well for Criswell or Piper as the Pirates stumbled out of the blocks to a 2-5 start.
However, the real Leo Criswell was on full display as he led the Pirates to their 13 th win in their last 14 games when they opened up Kansas 4A sub-states with a runaway victory over Basehor-Linwood Tuesday night. With Oklahoma State assistant Sean Sutton on hand, Criswell scored a career high 34 points on 13 of 20 field goals (2-4 on 3's, 6-9 FT's) and grabbed nine rebounds in roughly 25 minutes of action.
"I should have been out there doing that all year long," said Criswell. "I've been trying to learn the system for a while and its coming to me now."
Playing primarily on the wing, and looking like he is starting to fill out some physically, Criswell scored in pretty much every way imaginable. He soared way above the rim for emphatic jams, scored in the post, swished long threes and also threw in some nice two dribble pull up jumpers from mid range.
Piper head man Dave Hall knew Criswell was ready to bust out when he saw him in warm-ups.
"I could see it in his eyes when he was warming up, this is for real. Real players step up at this time of year and he really stepped up and made plays. All of the other guys are stepping up too.'
Particularly important has been the much improved play of 6-2 junior PG Damian Young. After starting the season off in wild fashion, Young has settled down and developed into a legitimate division one prospect himself -- UMKC was in the house watching -- and his improved stewardship of the Pirate ship combined with a little hard work from Criswell has made all of the difference.
"We've been working really hard with Leo and he does a lot of good things in practice," said Hall. "He's really willing to work hard and will put in the work and it is showing."
Of course, Criswell's work hasn't gone unnoticed. Kansas, OSU, Marquette, TCU, Arizona State, Creighton, Kansas State, Nebraska and others have all been out to see him this year. As it stands his top five schools are OSU, Marquette, TCU, Florida and Kansas.
Although he has said in the past that he wouldn't mind getting away from the Kansas City area for college, Criswell isn't against staying home and sees plenty to like at Kansas.
"I like it because it is home and they are developing pretty good, so why wouldn't I want to be there if it is right?"
For now, Criswell is focusing on a run at the state title before hitting the road for a busy summer on the Adidas circuit with KC Pump ‘N Run. He's also achieved a qualifying score on the ACT and according to Coach Hall, Criswell will focus on setting up visits before making a decision.
"We'll sit down after the season is over and make a list of schools we want to visit and look to go from there."