Choosing A College

Coach Rodney Traweek said he believes the reason his star pitcher, Ryan Leone, chose Ole Miss came down to a small handful of details.


Follow SpiritJeff on Twitter

"The (Ole Miss) coaches did a great job. There's just no doubt about it," said the veteran coach at Calvary Baptist Academy in Shreveport, La. "He could have gone anywhere he wanted to, but the key to that was he really felt a connection to those coaches, the school, the facilities, and being a part of the Southeastern Conference. To him, it just seemed a no-brainer where to go."

Leone, a 6-foot-1, 170-pound right-handed pitcher, enters his junior season already having made up his mind on his college choice. There were many to choose from.

"It came down to Ole Miss and Alabama," said Leone, who visited Ole Miss for the Alabama football weekend last October. "Those were the two I was really talking to. The other schools that offered or were interested were Southern Miss, LSU, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Oregon, and Vanderbilt."

Impressive list indeed. Leone agreed with Traweek's assessment as to what made a difference for him as far as Ole Miss is concerned.

"The coaches, Coach (Carl) Lafferty, Coach (Mike) Bianco. The facilities, the campus, and the town. I just loved it all," Leone said.

He had been to Ole Miss before, for baseball tournaments in 2010 and 2011 with his summer team, Marucci Elite out of Baton Rouge, La.

"So I had seen it a little bit before, last summer and the previous summer before that," he said of his visits to Oxford.

Leone, who was named first-team All-City, All-District, All-State, and Under Armour All-American last year, said he's glad to have the decision of his college choice behind him.

"I just kind of wanted to get all the stress and uncertainty about where I was going to go behind me and out of the way," he said. "Now I know, and it's like a relief."

Leone has a 4-seam fast ball, 2-seam fast ball, a changeup, and a curveball that he throws currently. Last year topped out at 92. He's consistently in the 90-range, according to Traweek.

"He's a 90-miles-an-hour pitcher, and he's still got two years left here," Traweek said. "He hasn't even pitched his junior year yet. He's still learning and will learn a lot more, grow a lot more, and by the time he gets to Ole Miss will be one of those recruits they'll be very excited about. And one that can help early when he gets there, and I think that's what they're hoping he'll do."

Having just turned 17 back on Oct. 17, Leone has still been on a lot of college coaches' radar for a while given his early development, according to Traweek.

"I think what was getting people to look at him at such an early age was his velocity. When he was in the eighth or ninth grade he would touch 87-88. From there his speed has only increased since. As you get older you start to develop your curve ball and your changeup and you master that. That's where he's kinda become that complete pitcher."

Leone is excited about Calvary's chances this season. Last year in Louisiana Class 2A, the team finished runnerup in the state playoffs. One of his goals is for the team to take that one final step.

"We should be pretty good. We've got three pitchers throwing over 90," Leone said. "My goals for me are to just locate pitches and for the team to win state."

Traweek's team was also state runnerup in 2006, won a state championship in both 2007 and 2008, and he has been Louisiana Coach of the Year three times (2006, 2007 and 2008). He agrees with Leone that his team's makeup this spring is impressive, especially its pitching staff.

"One through five is by far the strongest staff I've ever been around with high school kids in my 30 years of coaching," he said. "If they stay healthy, they'll be tough to score a lot of runs on for sure."

Traweek said Leone brings a lot to the table, not only now but also when he gets to college.

"I've coached him for four years," he said. "He's a hard worker, a fantastic pitcher that's got command and control of all of his pitches, whether it's fastball, curve, change. He can get you out with anyone of them. Consistently he always wants the ball and to be on the mound when we face our toughest competition. He loves that challenge. Teams that have a chance to beat him, that's who he wants to pitch against. He does not step down from a challenge."

Traweek's loss in a couple of years will be Ole Miss' gain. He reiterates the strong impression the Ole Miss coaches made on his pitcher.

"When he really weighed it all down, he wanted to play at a Southeastern Conference school. He loved the facilities. But the No. 1 thing and most importantly was he really, really connected with Coach Lafferty and Coach Bianco," Traweek said. "That was the key. Coach Lafferty had patience, always had just a great attitude and was very motivating. I think a lot of what it boiled down to was the way Coach Lafferty recruited him. He felt a very positive connection with the coaches at Ole Miss."

Leone is the sixth commitment who will sign in November and enroll at Ole Miss for the 2013-14 school year, joining LHP Evan Anderson, RHP/1B Cheynne Bickel, 3B Colby Bortles, SS/2B Dalton Dulin, and outfielder Carlos Williams.


OM Spirit Top Stories