2012 Illini Hoops Most Important Player? Meyers Leonard!


meyers leonard illinois

Last night’s 79-51 exhibition rout of Wayne State was expected for most Illini basketball fans. The most important number of the box score is found in the game’s leading scorer, Meyers Leonard. He had 18 points, in just 16 minutes, that’s a great sign for your Illinois Fighting Illini, because they’ll really need Leonard to be good, if they’re going to be good.Leonard came in with a lot of hype, even talk of leaving early for the NBA, but instead had an abominable freshman year. He was extremely foul prone in the scant minutes he played, and often looked lost on the floor.

“he was so humbled after last season, not having success. all the talk and the hype before last year, and then he gets as low as you can be, lower than a snake’s belly,” Bruce Weber said.

Leonard didn’t even want to go to USA basketball, thinking he might not even make the cut. But his coach Weber is on the committee, so obviously he had a good chance of making the cut. And Leonard had a great summer for the U.S. U-19 team in Latvia, he went out and proved it. And that added to his confidence.

“The biggest step is he realized he has to grow up,” Weber said.

“He has all the physical gifts, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see a 7-1 running the court, good hands good touch. I need him to play inside and rebound, but at the same time I’ll let him shoot a 15-17 footer. He’s a good shooter, but he has to go in and do those other things is we’re going to be successful. He’s got to be a 10-10 guy,” Weber continued at media day.

Very true, Leonard sporting a double double average for points and rebounds would make a world of difference for Illinois. Leonard knows there’s a lot of weight on his soldiers this season.

“I feel it somewhat, I make it more of a motivatiom but I know I have to be good, I know I have to lead in order for us to be good,” he said.

There are questions about where the rebounding will come from, and it won’t be long before Bruce Weber’s seat gets warm if mediocrity continues in Champaign. The Illini have a 44-44 conference record and only one NCAA Tournament victory in the past five seasons (when Weber was coaching his own guys and not in charge of Bill Self’s leftovers.)

And Leonard has a ton of upside to possibly lead them there. He didn’t really impress on the Italy trip (he was a bit dinged up then) but he grew a lot from USA basketball.

“It’s interesting to see how all the foreign guys play. We beat the three best teams but lost to Russia, and overall,” he said.

And he’s gained a lot of muscle weight. Usually he fluctuates 10-15 pounds a year and loses a bunch through conditioning, like most players. This year, he’s held steady at 240.

“People can tell, they say I have bigger arms, bigger overall,” Meyers said.

“They say you must be in the weight room a lot. In the summer I was lifting 4-5 times a week, and kept my weight on through conditioning.”

For the full Illini season preview go here

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports.

A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; he’s also a member of the FWAA, USBWA and SPJ. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.

 

Trackbacks

  1. 2012 Illini Hoops Most Important Player? Meyers Leonard! – The Sports Bank - Big Ten Illustrated says:

    [...] Article Source : 2012 Illini Hoops Most Important Player? Meyers Leonard! – The Sports Bank [...]

  2. Illini big man Meyers Leonard at the NBA Draft combine (video) | Chicago Sports Guru says:

    [...] Illinois Fighting Illini Center Meyers Leonard greeted the media yesterday at the 2012 NBA Draft combine. Here’s some of what he had to say [...]

  3. Illini Meyers Leonard going 14th to Milwaukee Bucks tonight? | Chicago Sports Guru says:

    [...] Meyers Leonard to the Milwaukee Bucks at #12 in tonight’s NBA Draft. That’s what we’re hearing. It’s even where we have him listed in our NBA Mock Draft. It makes sense, as Milwaukee is now sans Andrew Bogut and desperately needs a big. [...]

  4. Illinois big man Meyers Leonard joins Damian Lillard as Portland NBA Lottery pick | Chicago Sports Guru says:

    [...] They took Damian Lillard at #6 from Weber St. and a guy who played for someone named Weber in Meyers Leonard from the Illini at [...]

  5. [...] Like I said in the preseason, the most important player for Illinois this season is Meyers Leonard, and he showed why today, as he was the game’s leading scorer with 21. [...]

  6. […] this Illini team to be good. Just like two years ago, the team that led to Bruce Weber being fired, Meyers Leonard had to be good in order for that Illini team to be good. Leonard was only slightly above mediocre, […]

Speak Your Mind