UP NEXT: 2011 J.L. Mann SF Damien Leonard

J.L. Mann coach Jeff Craft has his Patriots team off to a strong start. A big part of that early success has been the play of freshman SG/SF Damien Leonard. Yes we're talking 2011 and this young man is the real deal! Come inside and get the early scoop on J.L. Mann's talented freshman standout.

We don't go looking to hype young players but when they jump out at you with superb play it's hard not to get excited. We had heard all last year about the 8th grader that J.L. Mann was going to be inheriting this year as a freshman so we decided to check him out early on this year. Normally when we hear tons of hype about players so young it's just that...hype.

The hype was legit and in a big way. After watching and evaluating 3 games of Damien Leonard in person it's amazing that he makes it look so effortless on the court. It is apparent that he's one of the early leaders for the Palmetto State's top 2011 hoops prospect. At 6'4 Leonard currently plays small forward for Craft's team and what Leonard brings to the table is a the ability to shoot the ball extremely well from outside and a good size at such a young age. Keep in mind he's just a freshman so he should get taller and add weight as his career goes on. What makes Leonard so impressive is that he never forces a shot and is so smooth that he makes it look easy.

Opponents have already caught wind of Leonard's talent but that hasn't stopped him from going out and dropping 20+ points per game. Recently at the Hilton Oceanfront Holiday Classic Leonard in Hilton Head made the All-Tournament team as he helped the Patriots defeat defending AAAA Lower State champions Summerville and Bamberg-Ehrhardt during the first two rounds. The Patriots eventually lost to AAAA state champions Fort Mill in the championship game but Leonard's play announced to the rest of the state that he'll be a dominant force for 3 more years.

For now it appears Leonard will let his upperclassmen teammates do most of the talking and preaching during team huddles. He seems quite comfortable stepping up when needed to drill a deep perimeter shot to silence the opponent's crowd or put an end to run. He dazzled against defending AA Upper State champions Southside early on in the year. In that game he nailed five 3-pointers en route to 23 points in the 56-45 upset.

Leonard's strength currently is his ability to shoot from the perimeter. If he gets hot its usually a long night for whomever is trying to guard him. Against Greer Leonard hit seven 3-pointers in a 29 point effort. He shows adequate handles for a youngster his size but his overall upside is off the charts. Right now he projects as a shooting guard but if he grows there's a chance he could play small forward on the next level too.

Once the 2011 rankings are released we expect Leonard to be ranked among the 50 best if he continues at his current rate of development. SCPrepNation.com will continue to track Damien Leonard as his freshman season rolls on and check in with him to see if college coaches are already starting to send him recruiting letters so stay tuned.

2011 SF Damien Leonard

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