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Meyers Leonard to enter draft

providencefriars1
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Meyers Leonard to enter draft

Per Alex Kline

"RT : Illinois sophomore Meyers Leonard will enter the 2012 NBA draft."

I think he's a lotto pick but could have moved up big time next year


SeattleSuperChronics
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leonard has bust written on

leonard has bust written on his forehead

Johnny Chill
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^robbed

Your so right...Now I'm worried the Warriors will want to draft him as the next Todd Fuller.

dede21
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he was one of the most

he was one of the most improved players in the country rather have him than a guy who got worse like Drummond maybe be hill keep getting better

Wahoo757
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Robbed, I agree with you

Robbed, I agree with you about Leonard. I watched a couple Illinois game and while his good size and athleticism was apparent, I never saw any semblance of a post game. Nearly all of his points came from catch and dunks, alley-oops, and offensive rebounds.

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With the number one pick,

With the number one pick, Michael Jordan and the Bobcats select Meyers Leonard.

ProudGrandpa
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Leaonard

I pity the team that drafts Meyers Leonard.

Hey, what do I know. But, living in Big Ten country, I watched him get overshadowed in several games by other players on his own team and not assert himself. I see a BJ Mullens type situation with him, and I think his stock will drop like Mullens' did.

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Mullens is looking pretty

Mullens is looking pretty solid now. In a few years he could make a drastic improvement like Bynum did after like 5 or 6 years.

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I never knew why he has

I never knew why he has always been ranked so high on this site, when most its members think he can't play and is a bust waiting to happen.

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I dont have a link, but

I dont have a link, but during the Minnesota-Illinois game in Minnesota this year, the announcers were talking about how Leonard does not want to enter, but he has to for money and family reasons. His mom suffers from a serious back injury and literally cannot get out of bed. I dont think she has seen her son play in years. Her back could be fixed and she could live a normal, healthy life if the family could afford an expensive surgery. Thats why Leonard is going pro right now when he could use some more time in college. Good luck to him and his family.

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I wouldn't be surprised if

I wouldn't be surprised if the Bucks draft him.

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http://espn.go.com/mens-colle

http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/7501291/illinois-fighting-illini-meyers-leonard-shoulders-plenty-college-basketball

The shoulders are broad, symmetrical support beams designed to sustain the 7-1 frame Meyers Leonard calls home.

Like Meyers himself, a straightforward 19-year-old whose cropped haircut and intense gaze let you know he doesn't suffer fools or slights well, the shoulders are strong and unflinching.

They don't buckle or waver, not with the weight of Jared Sullinger bearing down on them.

[+] EnlargeMeyers Leonard
Damen Jackson/Icon SMIMeyers Leonard went toe-to-toe with Ohio State All-American Jared Sullinger during the Illini's win over the Buckeyes on Jan. 10.

Not even with the weight of the world sitting atop them.

Rare is the young adult on the cusp of his 20s not worrying through some sort of crossroads. They are far from children, not fully bloomed adults.

But Meyers stands at a life intersection that is especially confusing.

He is, thanks to a late growth spurt, a fairly new 7-foot center wrapped in a guard's body. The Illinois sophomore is impressive one day, vexing the next.

His game is not entirely ready for the NBA, but his body is.

His heart would love to remain a college kid, "stay a kid a little longer" as he says, but the responsibilities of his life -- an ailing mother, a brother in Afghanistan -- dictate a more mature path.

He still misses home. His town, population dwindling and worn down by a worn-out economy, needs a hero.

He wants his college degree, but his family needs the paycheck.

It is a pack mule's burden borne by a man-child, heavy enough to topple most people.

That's where those shoulders come in. They don't belong to most people.

Meyers Leonard is a lot of things -- talented and stubborn, smart and starved for praise.

Above all, he is responsible.

"I want to be a kid for as long as I can be," he said. "But there's a lot on my shoulders. My mom is in a lot of pain. My brother is overseas. All of these people, these fans, they want us to be good. People ask me if I'm going to the NBA. There's just a lot of stuff right now."

There always has been a lot of stuff in Meyers Leonard's life, a bag of misfortune handed to a family that certainly never asked for it.

James Leonard was only 46 when he died, killed in a freak bicycle accident in the middle of the small town -- Robinson, Ill. -- the family called home.

Meyers was just 6 when his dad died, and his memories are only those he's been given -- snapshots of a life that read more like a magazine bio than an actual person.

Golf pro. Laid-back. Tall. That's James Leonard to Meyers.

Bailey Leonard remembers a little more. He was 8 when his father was killed, old enough to collect and cling to his own stories, young enough not to fully grasp the gravity of the situation. Bailey has his dad's ring and wears it everywhere, even in the Afghan desert, where he's serving his second tour as a Marine.

"That is my memory strongpoint because I remember him wearing it as a kid," Bailey wrote from his base in response to questions asked on Facebook. "Most are faint, but some stand out more than others. And I do not tend to talk to Meyers about him, because I feel that we both have a sense of 'what if' when it comes to him passing away."

[+] EnlargeMeyers Leonard
Ben Woloszyn/US PresswireDespite some trying times in his life, Leonard still has "Forever Blessed" tattoed across his arms.

What if. That's the mystery, isn't it?

What if James Leonard had lived? What would have happened then? It's impossible to answer and impossible not to wonder.

Maybe life would be better for Tracie, his wife. Once an athlete herself, a woman her son said would run more than 10 miles a day, she instead has been more or less housebound since James died. The one-two combination of an old horseback injury and disk surgery has left her with chronic and crippling back pain, delivering her a new double blow of cruelty -- she can't work because of the back pain but can't afford surgery because she can't work.

Tracie is not a complainer, but her son knows his mother and knows her agony. It is physical and emotional, the aches of a back that won't let her move and the heartache of being unable to see either of her boys -- one because he is overseas, fighting for his country, the other because she can't stomach the two-hour ride to Champaign.

"She's been through a lot," Meyers said. Tracie declined an interview for this story. "She's a fighter, so she tries not to let me worry, but, every once in a while, she'll break down and tell me how bad it is. I know how hard it is for her. It's hard on all of us. It was different when I was in high school, when I could see her every day."

Maybe if James Leonard had lived, his eldest son would feel less compelled to please, to try to be the man of the house. Instead, Bailey, a good student who didn't have an easy high school experience as an outlier to the popular crowd, enlisted.

He is, his younger brother said, "good at his job," which is both a prideful boast and Meyers' way of assuring himself that Bailey is OK.

The truth is, Bailey's leaving was hard. Meyers isn't a crier, but the day his brother left for training, Meyers went to his room, shut the door and bawled.

"It was difficult, but it wasn't as difficult as getting my mom to accept the fact that I was joining," Bailey said. "I told her my recruiter was coming to the house. I hadn't told her beforehand. I could tell she knew it was what I wanted, but I can never understand what it is like for a mother to hear her son say he wants to join the Marine Corps, especially during a time of war."

But then again, if James Leonard had lived, maybe Meyers Leonard wouldn't be Meyers Leonard. Maybe he wouldn't be so tough, maybe he wouldn't be so strong, maybe he wouldn't be so stubborn.

And maybe he wouldn't be so lucky.

Brian Siler remembers the moment he decided to change his life. He was at the baseball diamond, watching his son Austin play, when he spotted another boy, another second-grader, on the field.

Siler didn't know Meyers Leonard, but he knew his story. Robinson isn't a big town, and the 6,000 or so people there celebrate the good news and mourn the tragedy. Siler vaguely remembers James Leonard leaning on an outfield fence, watching his boys play, hollering like dads do to their kids. Siler knew Leonard had died, leaving his boys without a dad.

"I just thought, 'This kid looks like he could use someone in his life,'" Siler said. "Honestly, I just felt led at the time. I didn't know I was going to do anything. I didn't know what I was going to do. But I wanted to do something."

It started out simply. Austin and Meyers are the same age, so when Siler took his son to practice or a game, he'd bring Meyers. If Austin needed gear, Siler bought some for Meyers, too.

[+] EnlargeMeyers Leonard
Courtesy the Siler familyThe Silers have been a second family to Meyers.

Eventually the taxiing became dinners and the dinners turned into sleepovers. Soon Meyers was accompanying the Silers -- Brian; his wife, Tarita; sons, Austin and Aaron; and daughter, Abby -- to church and on family vacations, posing in the pictures like a beanpole superimposed in the back.

He never called Siler dad but says he is "like a dad," and Siler always respected his boundaries -- "You treat him like a son, but he's not my own," -- but offered support, guidance and discipline when needed.

Looking to shoehorn the relationship into a convenient box, outsiders have called this Meyers' version of "The Blind Side," but the comparison is inaccurate.

The book and subsequent movie tell the story of Michael Oher, a boy who was homeless and didn't have much of a family life.

Meyers Leonard has a family. It has not abandoned him.

On the contrary, Tracie loves her son, loves him so much that she was willing to accept help.

"I know there is a lot of talk about their relationship, but there shouldn't be," Siler said. "They talk daily. They're very close. He knows the situation she's in, knows the daily pain she's in, but she wants him to succeed and he wants to succeed for her. She has done an amazing job with those boys."

What Tracie couldn't do, the Silers did. They are not filthy rich -- Brian is an insurance agent -- but they are comfortable, and, more, they are Christian, holding fast to the notion that, by helping someone else, they will be rewarded 10 times over.

"And boy, has that ever been the case here," Siler said. "We've had so many blessings having Meyers in our life."

It hasn't been without complications.

Meyers is not the easiest kid to discipline, even now. He is stubborn yet needs to be cajoled, a kid who needs structure yet requires praise.

And then there was Siler's own family.

Siler had to have a talk with Austin, negotiating the awkward tap dance of raising two boys the same age, one his son, the other not, both getting equal treatment.

"I give Austin so much credit," Siler said. "There was never any jealousy, never any negative feelings toward Meyers. He knew in his heart that what he was doing was right, and he let that lead him."

What the Silers have gained pales in comparison with how Meyers has prospered.

He has a mother who loves him, a brother he idolizes and now a family that can buoy him. Everything Meyers wants to do for Tracie and Bailey, the Silers already have done for him.

"They are unbelievable people," Meyers said. "They didn't have to do what they did. They did it out of the kindness of their hearts. I am so thankful for it and so, so lucky."

And now it is Meyers' turn.

At least that is how he sees it. A one-time pitcher turned guard turned big man after a six-inch growth spurt between his freshman and sophomore years in high school, Meyers is something of a basketball anomaly. He gained all that height without losing his coordination or his fast-twitch muscles.

[+] EnlargeLeonard
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesBruce Weber didn't know what to expect from the small-town player, but found out that Leonard is a big-time player.

He can shot-block and skyhook, but can also dribble and shoot.

"You come to our practices and watch at the end," Illini coach Bruce Weber said. "He'll knock down 50 3s in a row."

Weber admits he was skeptical when people told him to drive to a small eastern Illinois town to see this big kid turning heads.

"I mean, he was dominating in Robinson, Ill. How good could he be?" Weber said.

Turns out: very good. Folklore good. Meyers is the Paul Bunyan of Robinson, the gentle giant who led the tiny town to its first state title. It bought him a lifetime of adoration and free drinks in his hometown and unexpected attention from college scouts.

He chose to stay home, close to his mom, close to his roots.

But tall tales don't always stand up so well in reality, and Meyers' freshman year was a serious reality check. He averaged just 2.1 points and 1.2 rebounds per game, trying to find his way in the college game.

His confidence was so shaken that, this past summer, when he was invited to attend the USA Basketball U-19 training camp, he initially went to his coach to decline.

"I said, 'What do you mean you don't want to go?" Weber said. "First of all, I'm on the staff and we get to bring someone along, so you're going. Second of all, why not? He didn't want to go because he didn't think he was going to make it. And I told him that's why you go, to figure out what you need to work on."

Meyers went and made the team, using that experience to fuel his confidence and his play this season.

He is far from a finished product. Like the Illini, Leonard is good some nights, bad the others. His numbers are incredibly improved -- 13.3 ppg and 7.8 rpg now -- but he is his own worst enemy, his basketball growth slowed by his mental concentration. Meyers knows his flaws and owns them, but he still makes them, which only exasperates his coaches more.

"He'll do something and the next day come in and apologize," Weber said. "And I appreciate that, but I also want to say, 'Stop apologizing. Just do it right.'"

But although Meyers might not be ready for the NBA, there's a chance the NBA will be ready for Meyers and his 7-foot-1, 245 pounds of chiseled muscle. He is quintessential upside, a package of potential that, if tapped, could soar.

Meyers is thrilled and terrified at the thought because it puts him dead in the middle of an impossible decision.

He needs to do what is best for himself.

He wants to do what is best for everyone else.

"We talk about that all the time, probably every day," Siler said. "He's had to grow up quickly because he's always had so much responsibility, and now here's more. This is his decision, but it's not about him. It's about his mom and his brother and even, to a point, the people of Robinson. He wants to do well for so many people."

The Leonard home sits across the street from a car dealership.

When Meyers was in high school, he remembers his mother staring out the door and across the street at a pearl Cadillac STS sitting in the lot.

"Her eyes lit up," Meyers said. "She said, 'Wow, if I could ever have one of those.' She's never had much. She's never asked for anything. Everything she had, she gave to us. I want to be able to take care of her. I want to help my brother."

It is a lot to wish for, a heavy load to carry.

But it sure seems as though Meyers Leonard has the shoulders for it.

PrecociousNeophyte
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Mark my words, If he is

Mark my words, If he is selected high enough, like in the top 10 range he will be one of the biggest draft busts of all time. I wouldn't even take him in the first round.

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Bucks either draft Zeller or

Bucks either draft Zeller or Leonard to replace Bogut. I got them taking Zeller.

jazzfan1
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I'd take him

Here's hoping the Jazz have the sense to draft this kid.

I've watched him a lot this year, just got a feeling about him. Sure, he might be a bust, just like Barnes or Drummond or Lamb....Each player has percieved flaws, but what really counts is in the heart. If Leonard wants to make it, he will. Just watching him for a while, he's really an incredible athlete who is still learning the game.

Knew he had a sick mom at home, but didn't know the details until I read the story above. Man, I'm gonna be sick if this kid is a bust. This is one of those stories that needs a happy ending.

Of the big men in this draft, I'd feel much better drafting Leonard than Drummond. He has a tremendous amount to learn, and his team is going to need to be patient with him. Simply from the athletic ability alone, he could be a tremendous defensive player, and someone with his size, quickness and explosive athletic ability....Surely there is a place for him in the NBA.

Like I said, just got a feeling about him.

TheLastWord
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Don't think he'll be a bust.

Don't think he'll be a bust. Too much size, too much athleticism. He'll go top 10.

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Should he even be considered

Should he even be considered a bust since everyone is already labeling him as one? I agree though, I've been saying this kid will be a bust for awhile.

dede21
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chris mihm type of player I

chris mihm type of player I don't think he will be great but might be a little underated if he goes late lottery or a little later

frogman
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Why is he like Chris Mihm?

Why is he like Chris Mihm? Coz they are 7 foot white dudes?

dede21
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They are both tall and very

They are both tall and very athletic at least when Mihm was young and healthy. After Shaq, Robinson, Gilmore and Wilt Leonard may be the 5th most athletic 7'1 plus player in the history of the NBA? ann all of them of course are hall of famers.

PulseGlazer
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Not seeing anything special

Not seeing anything special here.

jazzfan1
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Good

Hope the rest of the GM's and scouts feel the same way.

I'd take a chance on him. So he doesn't develop, nothing lost at a 14 pick. If he does like I think he will, huge pickup for the Jazz.

Simply take a look at him from a physical standpoint...He's a great athlete, quick, huge! hands and great length. Needs some strength, and he's 7'1", probably 9'5" reach....245 right now, big frame for putting on weight.

Engage.

fito91
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high risk, high reward

high risk, high reward

rwd5035
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I saw him play live vs Penn

I saw him play live vs Penn State (yes I'm a Penn State fan, breathe, laugh, I digress..)this year, and he was very soft. Penn State has no bigs who can contend with him, and he didn't take over the game like he should. He shot decently from the floor (6 for 12) but in 34 minutes, with his toughest competition being 6'8'' Jon Graham, and 6'9'' Sasa Borovnjak he logged 4 REBOUNDS. 4?!

I think he's got some offensive skill, but I really question his motor, and assertiveness. He might be a good player in the right team. I think his best case scenario is being like Brook Lopez. Which, if you get the right big man next to him, could help him out dramatically.

He's a project, there is potentially light at the end of the tunnel. There is also a chance that light is another train coming right at you. Tough to call.

AKOO
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Kid is definitely not very

Kid is definitely not very productive for his size when you put him against NBA players being successful. He is not even on Hibbett's level as a sophomore and you see where Hibbert ended up drafted. Mid first round. People thinking this dude is a lotto pick are delusional. On the other hand, if someone will pay you to be 7ft tall and then hope for everything else to come along then you are truly financially blessed. Wish I had got it that easy but more power to him.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F64KxaaQGqU

let that dunk by leonard ^ represent his capability to improve his stock in the combine.

that looks exactly like a blake griffin dunk, except blake can do it from two steps as opposed to a fast break lol

PulseGlazer
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So, is there Bynum potential?

So, is there Bynum potential?

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