Getting To Know The 2010 USA Nike Hoop Summit Team: Meyers Leonard
April 7, 2010 - Portland, Ore.
Named to the 2010 USA Nike Hoop Summit on April 6, Meyers Leonard (Robinson H.S. / Robinson, Ill.) will arrive in Portland, Ore., on April 7, along with the rest of the 2010 USA Junior National Select Team. And while Leonard had less time than anybody to prepare for his first experience in a USA jersey, the entire USA team will have to play catch-up to a world team that has been practicing since Monday, April 5.
Leonard would know something about catching up. After an impressive growth spurt as a high school freshman and sophomore, he landed on everybody's radar. Two years later, Leonard stands at 7-0 with a 2010 Illinois 2A state title under his belt and a scholarship at the University of Illinois waiting for him in the fall.
USABasketball.com talked with the big man about his game, his motivation and what he would most like to improve.
What was your reaction when you got the phone call from USA Basketball to join the 2010 USA Nike Hoop Summit Team?
I knew that I was coming out for the USA Basketball U18 training camp in June, but I was just overwhelmed that I was one of only 10 guys that get a chance to play in the Nike Hoop Summit. It is an honor, and I feel blessed that I can be a part of it.
In the news:
Will playing in the Rose Garden be something special for you?
Definitely - I've never played in an NBA arena before, and to do it with such high-caliber players and USA on our jerseys will just be an awesome experience I'm sure.
On his high school season:
I won a state championship with my team this year, and that has been one of my main goals ever since I started getting recruited, so I'm very happy about that. I had a pretty good season. There were a lot of teams focused on me, so that made it harder to get the ball and all that stuff. I think I played really hard, and I got better, so that's the most important thing.
For someone who hasn't seen you play, could you describe your style?
An athletic big man that gets up and down the court, quicker than most big men. I like to get up and down the court and try to make plays. I play hard at all times, blocking shots and rebounding, just doing whatever I can out there. If someone else is open, I'm going to pass them the ball. I'm not looking to score all the points or anything. I try to be a well-rounded player, not play selfish and just play hard all the time.
What made you decide on the University of Illinois?
Just everything about it. When I started getting recruited hard by all the schools in the country, that is where I wanted to go from the beginning. That is just how I felt. The coaching staff is awesome. Coach Weber developing players, and Jerry Price and all those guys are awesome. The education is also another important part to me. I have a 3.5, and they have a good education system. The campus, and basketball and just everything is what I want, so that's why I chose to go there.
What would you like to improve before you arrive at Illinois in the fall?
Probably just strength. I'm finally starting to grow into my body a little more. Being 7-0 and pretty lanky, it was kind of hard to put on muscle, just because of my body and how I'm built. I'm getting a lot stronger, and I think this summer and next year, I could put on a lot of weight. I already have. I've gained about 40 or 50 pounds since I got into high school. Playing in the Big Ten, I'm just going to try and get a lot stronger and work on my overall game so I can bring whatever they need to the table.
What motivates you?
You know, somewhat I've had a hard life, growing up with it just being me, my mom and my brother. My dad passed away when I was six. Even more so my brother, he is in the Marines and he left for Afghanistan two or three months ago. Knowing what he's gone through and what my family has gone through, I'm trying to be successful. I know that if I work hard then I have a pretty solid chance of being successful. I would say that my family is what motivates me.
Are you familiar with your U.S. teammates?
I've been to camp with most of the players, so I've been around them a lot. It's an unbelievable lineup.
Do you think this U.S. team will be able to come together in a few practices and be ready to face a very strong World Team?
I think so, with all the talent we have. I've seen those guys in action, and they all work hard obviously, being the top recruits in the nation. It's going to take a lot of effort and a lot of coming together. It might take a little bit for us to get a feel for each other on the court, but I think definitely with everybody's basketball experience and our ability to play the game we have an excellent chance to win.
What will it mean to you to wear a USA jersey?
It's an honor, really. That's just pretty awesome to be able to represent your country at the age of 18, and to do it in sport even, it's just pretty awesome. Obviously, it's not the same as LeBron and all those guys that won the gold medal in Beijing, but it's a step toward that. It's going to be an awesome experience. I know it will.