2011 wingman will be one of nation's best

It's probably a good thing when people are comparing you to O.J. Mayo and Derrick Rose, so when a 6-foot-3 sophomore from Greenville, S.C. walks onto the court drawing these comparisons, it's worth paying attention to.


Damien Leonard is drawing early interest from the who's who of college basketball - North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Kentucky, Memphis, Kansas and Florida, according to Leonard.

However, since it's early in the game for the sophomore swingman, only two schools have offered thus far - The in-state schools, South Carolina and Clemson.

And according to Leonard's AAU coach Willis Holliday (Carolina Cougars), whose like a father to Leonard, the two Palmetto State programs have the upper hand.

"Of course our South Carolina schools, South Carolina and Clemson, have the edge," Willis Said.

As far as the humble Leonard's thoughts on staying in state, he's still adjusting to the recruiting process, but he likes what the in-state schools have to offer.

"They both play the game like me. I can fit in their teams with how they play," Leonard said. "I like both of their campuses. They are nice and quiet communities, and I like the coaching staffs."

If one of the in-state schools happen to land Leonard, they would be pulling a quality commit that is considered by some to be top five in his class, with some saying he might even be the No. 1 player nationally.

According to Leonard, as a freshman he averaged 21 points, 4 assists and 5 rebounds a game.

"Damien is an incredible basketball player," Holliday said. "Damien has tremendous work ethic. He's no doubt one of the best players that I've ever worked out or done drills with. I think this year people will see he's more than a shooter and see the other dynamics of his game."

Leonard wants to take his game to a school where he can fit in and showcase his talents.

"I want to go to a team that doesn't have a lot of all-stars. I want to make the team better," Leonard said. "When it comes down to the last second, when we need it, I'm willing to do it."

And he's been doing it at the forward position because of his size, but his skill set is more guard oriented and doctors say he'll probably grow to be around 6-5 or 6-6. So he looks forward to playing guard at the next level.

"There's no doubt in my mind that at (his size) that he's the best shooter in the nation," Holliday said.

So far, Leonard has visited South Carolina and Clemson unofficially, and he and his AAU coach plan to pop in on Florida and North Carolina just to see how the programs really work.

Leonard looks to go to a school where he can log a lot of minutes right away, but despite that, Holliday is pushing for the J.L. Mann High standout to go to a school where he'll be comfortable staying all four years and getting a degree.

Leonard and Willis will sit down and really evaluate his process and the two are looking at cutting his long list of schools down to four sometime in late July.


To discuss this article, visit GamecockAnthem's premium forum - The Golden Spur.

Gamecock Anthem Top Stories