Leonard blazing trails in NBA

Leonard blazing trails in NBA

Meyers Leonard embarked on his NBA career Wednesday night. Here's the scoop on the first Illini to play regularly in the NBA since Deron Williams:

Sorry, kids, but every one of Meyers’ national TV appearances tips off past your bedtime (9:30 p.m.) Here’s a look:

Nov. 13
vs. Los Angeles Clippers
9:30 p.m., TNT

Sure, it’d be nice to win, but the Pride of Robinson’s primary objective is to avoid being posterized by Blake Griffin.

Dec. 13
vs. San Antonio
9:30 p.m., TNT

Meyers was 5 years old when Tim Duncan began his illustrious career with the Spurs in 1997.

Jan. 10
vs. Miami
9:30 p.m., TNT

How cool would it be for Meyers to be matched up against LeBron James, who was used at the 4 spot during last season’s playoffs?

Feb. 27
vs. Denver
9:30 p.m., ESPN

Former N-G basketball writer Paul Klee, who profiled Meyers’ rise from Robinson, will be courtside for the Colorado Springs Gazette.

March 14
vs. New York
9:30 p.m., TNT

Rookie needs a notebook to jot down every trick by old-time big men Marcus Camby, Tyson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire, Rasheed Wallace (combined 52 years in the NBA)

March 27
vs. Brooklyn
9:30 p.m., TNT

With Brian Cook waived, Nets star Deron Williams is the only other former Illini in the NBA.

April 16
at Los Angeles Clippers
9:30 p.m., TNT

To get in Chris Paul’s head, Meyers should bring up the Illini’s rout of then-No. 1 Wake Forest in the magical 2004-05 season.

April 17
vs. Golden State
9:30 p.m., ESPN

Final night of the season, final chance to impress voters. The last Big Ten player to win Rookie of the Year: Michigan’s Chris Webber in 1994

Best way to see Meyers in action — and maybe get his autograph — is against the Pacers (tickets: 317-917-2827) or the Bulls (bulls.com):

Portland at Indiana, Dec. 5 (6 p.m.)
Since the Big Ten tournament moved back to Chicago, this is your only reason to get to Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Portland at Chicago, March 21 (7 p.m.)
Let’s hope Derrick Rose is back on the court by then for the Bulls, who only are saying he won’t return until after the All-Star break.

That’s Portland’s slogan for the 2012-13 season, and Meyers is part of the marketing strategy. He played in seven preseason games and started one. His line:
MPG     FG%     FT%     RPG     PPG
15.7     76.2     86.7     4.3     6.4

A scouting report on Meyers, courtesy Joe Freeman of the hometown Oregonian:
“Leonard is raw and simmering with potential, and athletic centers like him, who can run, shoot, pass and play defense — all while embracing the dirty work — are rare. They also typically take years to groom. Leonard’s development will have a significant impact on how quickly the Blazers’ rebuild lasts.”

His hometown of Robinson is proud of Meyers, who one day might get the James Jones treatment. So are his former Illini teammates.

Robinson High AD Terry Roche
“I watched two or three games in the preseason just to see how he was doing. Everyone around town has been trying to figure out ways to watch the games on TV if they’re not on around here. People have been going on their computers if they have to. The radio people update us every morning on how many points, rebounds he had. It’s pretty awesome. Everyone is well aware of what’s going on with Meyers.”

Illini senior Tyler Griffey
“If anyone deserves it, it’s him. He’s worked so hard. I know he’s excited; he’s ready. It’s kind of been a surreal experience for me.
“You could just kind of tell when he came in that he could reach this level. No one is that athletic at that age at that size. He’s a freak.”

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
geriatricillini wrote on November 01, 2012 at 7:11 am

Hey now, don't forget us older kids...you know 60 and over...9:30pm is right around our bedtime, too, Good luck to Meyers by the way...he was banging around with Dwight Howard last night and got popped in the kisser acouple of times...welcome to the NBA Mr. Leonard...Howard ended up with 33 points...only 81 games left this season for ya kiddo...you'll be fine just keep working at it...