Greenville, SC- At SCPrepNation.com we hate to say we told you so, but we told you so. We told you that Damien Leonard was going to be a high level national recruit in the 2011 hoops class and already his recruitment has taken off in a major way since we first told you about him early last season. The 2011 stud shooting guard has been elevated to 4-star status by Dave Telep and the Scout.com hoops staff after a very strong showing on the AAU circuit. We caught up with Leonard to talk about his offseason, recruiting, and what his outlook is heading into his sophomore season for the J.L. Mann Patriots.
Last season Leonard came on like gangbusters and at season's end he was named to the All-State team. With a year under his belt he ventured out on the AAU circuit with his Carolina Cougars squad and had some moments that caught the eyes of college coaches and scouts in attendance.
A who's who of college basketball programs have already started to send him frequent mail and started making appearances at J.L. Mann's campus and games to "show some love" for the 2011 standout.
Leonard named off his early favorites at this point in the game. "North Carolina, Florida, Clemson, Kansas, Memphis, Mississippi State, Wake Forest, UCLA, and South Carolina. There's no particular order for me." So far in the process he has already made a few unofficial visits to check out the atmosphere of the biggest in-state programs. "I've been to visit Clemson and South Carolina so far."
Having made trips to both schools he shed a little light about what he likes most about the two programs. "At Clemson I liked the experience of their world coaching staff and the campus. I liked USC's coaching staff a lot also."
As the word spread about Leonard's skills last season many in the upstate are already bringing up the discussion as to just where he ultimately could stand amongst the state's best prospects ever when he graduates. While some say that talk may still a little premature there's no arguing that he is already on pace to be mentioned with the likes of Kevin Garnett, Shammond Williams, Ray Allen, Jermaine O'Neal, and others when it comes to top high school ballers from the Palmetto State over the past 20 years.
What is Leonard's take on that kind of talk with the likes of those former standouts also from South Carolina? "It makes me feel good but at the same time it makes me want to work even harder." Speaking of hard work, Leonard says he put in plenty this offseason to tweak his game to prepare for his sophomore season. "I worked the most on my ballhandling and my defense."
The 2011 baller says he also stands at the 6'4 mark but has added some muscle to his frame to prepare for the upcoming season. Early on in the schedule Leonard and his AAA Patriots will face AA state champions Southside High. Last season Leonard lead the Patriots to 2 victories over the rivals who are just a couple of miles from one another. "Yes I'm really looking forward to playing Southside again. I really wanna have the chance to play Robbie Dreher before he goes off to college! It will be a great game. I can't wait!"
We asked Leonard for his take on the toughest in-state players he's had to face so far in his young career. "Quinton Thomas and DeAndre Hopkins. Those guys are tough!" Then we asked him what he'd do to try and slow Damien Leonard down if he were an opposing defender. "I don't know, because from what people say they I'm tough and they are just gonna have to play me and see."
During our first interview with him a year ago Leonard told us his dream school was North Carolina. Are they still the a sentimental favorite for him early in the process? "Kinda but not really." We pressed him further and asked would he commit on the spot if Roy Williams offered him a scholly. "I would have to think about it."
4-star SG Damien Leonard