Over the course of the past few seasons we've watched Damien Leonard very closely. We remember first hearing about him through the grapevine as an 8th grader. With 2 seasons of varsity basketball under his belt the sophomore prospect has emerged as not only the #1 prospect in the state of South Carolina but as one of the nation' best for the class of 2011. Steadily improving his game Leonard sat down with SCPrepNation.com to give us the very latest regarding his recruitment and plans for the offseason.
His sophomore season was a great success as he helped the J.L. Mann Patriots make another deep run in the AAA playoffs. Along the way Leonard played extremely well earning All-State honors once again. He and the Patriots also saw some tough competition not only playing against in-state competition but also facing some strong out of state squads during the Beach Ball Classic this year in Myrtle Beach.
However it's the down the street rivalry against Southside High and their duo of Robbie Dreher and Quinton Thomas that Leonard really relished this past season he says. "I feel like I could have done more than what I did, but it was fun getting to play Robbie before he goes off to college, he's a great player. He was the toughest individual player I faced this year."
As for recruiting things have been pretty steady for the four-star rated Leonard. If you watch much college basketball in the Palmetto State and are able to see the Clemson Tigers then you've probably seen Leonard and teammate Brandon Boggs sitting behind the Clemson bench pretty prominently on a number of occasions this year. "Yeah I'd say Clemson is pushing extremely hard for me right now!"
As for other visits Leonard says he's been to just Columbia to check out Darrin Horn's South Carolina Gamecocks this year. The sweet shooting guard says he plans on contacting some of ther schools about making some visits in the near future. "I'm looking forward to visiting schools like Memphis, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Kansas, and Texas."
Right now Leonard says that he hears the most often from Clemson, Memphis, Wake Forest, Kansas, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina. He also makes no bones about the fact that North Carolina has always been one of his favorites throughout the process. He talked about what it was like to watch the Tar Heels win another national championship on Monday night. "It was great! I can't wait to hear even more from them now."
As the AAU season is warming up right now we asked Leonard if he was ready to hit the travel circuit. His response? A resounding "oh yes!!! I'm running with the Carolina Cougars again. Some of my teammates are Brandon Boggs, Devon Myrick, Rod Drummond, Kelvin Brown, and Darren Butler."
As for his junior year next season he's already set some goals for his Patriots squad. "Our goals next year are to win the region championship again and then win the AAA state championship. From a personal standpoint I want to get my team as far as I can, because sometimes I think some games I've let them down. Next year is for real, it's gonna be a new Damien Leonard, I'm gonna bring it!!!"
Already one of the country's most deadly perimeter shooters Leonard says he'll continue to work hard on improving his ballhandling skills, his defense, and yes...adding even more range to his deadly jumper this offseason.
Speaking of bringing it, Damien currently holds scholarship offers from in-state schools Clemson and South Carolina. He also says that he has added an offer from the Wake Forest Demon Deacons as well. Asked if he felt any other programs might be close to offering he said possibly North Carolina, Memphis, Florida, and Kansas.
Being such a highly rated prospect he undoubtedly gets everyone's "A game" each time he steps onto the court. Asked what his approach was to being a target for most opponents he replied, "Well I don't back down from anybody. Not to sound cocky or anything but I usually let my game do the talking, and I haven't found anybody to shut me up yet."
For the very latest regarding Damien Leonard and other top high school basketball prospects in South Carolina keep it locked right here with SCPrepNation.com!