Lionheart Leslie is a 22 year old 178cm point guard from Houma, Louisiana that recently finished a stellar college career at CS Fullerton. He started his basketball career in 2013-2014 with Blinn JC (JUCO) and as a freshman played 30 games averaging 9.0ppg, 2.6rpg, 3.6apg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 20.0%, FT: 79.5%. In his second season at Blinn JC (JUCO) he played 32 games averaging 14.7ppg, 5.1rpg, 5.7apg, FGP: 59.8%, 3PT: 52.1%, FT: 76.9%. In 2015-2016 he moved t CS Fullerton (NCAA) and as a junior played 29 games averaging 8.3ppg, 3.1rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 51.8%, 3PT: 29.2%, FT: 71.3%. In his senior year at CS Fullerton (NCAA) he played 31 games averaging 10.6ppg, 4.2rpg, 2.4apg, 1.7spg, FGP: 54.8%, 3PT: 23.0%, FT: 75.8%. He recently took part at the Howard Hoops tour in Germany and spoke to German Hoops about basketball.
Lionheart thanks for talking to German Hoops. Welcome to Germany. It is late summer 2017 and most guys are signed to play somewhere in the world except you. When you were nearing the end of a very solid senior year at Cal State Fullerton would you ever have thought you would be playing in with a basketball tour team in small gyms in the back woods of Germany?
To be honest, towards the end of my senior year I would’ve never thought I’d be playing ball in the back woods of Germany, but I am very humbled by this experience and thankful for this opportunity to play.
Ronald Howard is like a basketball savior for young hungry and at times unknown players just wanting to get their foot in the door. He continues to bring guys to Germany and a few weeks later they have jobs. How thankful have you been for getting this chance and do you see him as a savior?
There are not enough words to express how thankful I am for getting this opportunity to play. This is something that I will always be grateful for in my life. Ronald Howard portrays all the characteristics of a what a savior is because with given this chance, I’m able to continue to play the sport that I love and am passionate about.
Talk a little about your Howard Hoops experience. You really lit it up on the weekend and demonstrated why you had such a good career at Cal State Fullerton from 2015-2017. Did it sometimes feel like you were a man playing among kids?
I wouldn’t put it in that way, but the feeling was very much similar. Given this opportunity, I felt it was my time to showcase everything I got in the time that I was given. When I’m determined to do something, I put my mind and everything I have in me to do so.
Players obviously want to impress in these types of settings, but what really was very important for you during the games to display besides your natural knack of scoring?
Persistence, Determination and Resilience are probably the most important and fundamental qualities to have in your game. With all that in tact, I feel that players will play to the best of their abilities regardless. Focusing on the next play, and just making sure that I am doing my job on the court weather it’s defensively or offensively.
How confident are you not only of being able to play as a professional, but to be able to make an impact right away?
Very confident. Playing professionally has always been a dream of mine, and now that I’m given that chance, I’m going to give it a full 100 and run with it. Making a presence on the court will be something that I am determined to do every game. Making an impact & contributing to the team as much as I can will be a main focus while playing.
Many of the guys in the first Howard Hoops tour team a few weeks ago talked about the great chemistry among the players as it was less me me me, but more everyone trying to help each other. Did you feel that kind of chemistry and bonding among strangers in the few days you were teammates?
Most definitely! There was great chemistry on the court, and I can agree with my teammates on that. Being in a foreign county is different, by playing, I feel like it only brought us together as a team, and made it very easy to play along side “strangers”.
You have the perfect first name Lionheart. Please explain how you got this name and how did you live with it during school growing up as kids can always be very mean.
When my mother was about 8 months pregnant with me, she felt a very sharp pain in her right side. Come to find out, that it wasn’t just any ordinary pain it was a tumor. A tumor that was growing very quickly. Doctors had to remove several ribs, and they felt that I needed to go as well, meaning they felt that I wasn’t going to last long with everything else going on at that time. My mom disagreed, and wanted to have me and that is exactly what she did. Due to the trauma there was some things that became difficult during labor but I made it out just fine. With that being said, my father named me Lionheart, because a lion is courageous and not fearful, and the pain I went through during this process affected me in many ways. Growing up, I embraced my name more than I was embarrassed. Kids wouldn’t believe me when I said what my name was, and people today still don’t believe me until I actually tell them. My name has definitely had an impact on the man I am today.
Has your desire and heart to reach the level you deserve continue to drive you since you proved once before you could make the next step from Blinn JC (JUCO) to the NCAA?
Definitely! Like I mentioned before, when I am certain I want something, I put my mind and everything I got into it and I will do whatever it takes to make it happen. I have always had a long desire to start my professional career, it’s been a dream of mine since I picked up a basketball. Proving it once goes to show that I am more than capable of proving it a couple more times.
As a senior at CS Fullerton (NCAA) you played 31 games averaging 10.6ppg, 4.2rpg, 2.4apg, 1.7spg, FGP: 54.8%, 3PT: 23.0%, FT: 75.8%. I am totally perplexed how a guy like you still isn´t signed. What do you feel has kept you from having a team now? Not every team can knock your size.
Great things take time. Things may not happened as soon as I’d liked but I have to say I wouldn’t want it to have worked out any other way.
You had many very good individual games at CS Fullerton, but lost the games. Was your 21 point games in the narrow 78-77 win against Pacific one of your most fondest memories on the court?
I’d have to say that the Pacific win was one of the games I won’t forget in my last season at CSUF. My mentality throughout that game was to focus on the next play and to get the next bucket. As close as that game was, those type of challenges make me a better player.
You played two very good games against Washington(NCAA) scoring 15 and 16 points in loses. Last season you scored 15 points in the 104-88 loss to Washington as you witness NBA 2017 #1 pick Markelle Fultz hit you with 35 points. What kind of experience was it battling against him?
Playing against opponents like Markelle Fultz helps not only myself but my team to get better offensively & defensively. Playing against these tops players and teams really does prepare us. I enjoy taking on challenges especially on the court because it allows me to give all I got and to leave it on the court.
With all respect to Fultz, you obviously can´t deny his talent, but when you look at his game and see yours, do you sense that it is world´s between you in skill or is it just one big strength of his or just many little things that separate you in ability on the court?
Without a doubt Fultz is a great player. With that being said, comparing his game to mine I see it as a strength of his. He’s a great transition player and is a versatile guard. There are definitely differences in our skills but we both have our strengths that make us both impact players on the court.
How did head coach Dedrique Taylor prepare you best for a professional career at CS Fullerton?
Coach Taylor along side the CSUF coaching staff prepared me in many ways. Preparation in the classrooms and on the court. Weather it was pushing me to my limits in practice, to giving me the extra study hall hours. It was tough, but it was beneficial throughout our season!
Your ex teammate Tre Coggins found a team and will start his professional career at Cocinas.com CB Clavijo Logrono (Spain-LEB Gold). How did you profit from his game and how do you believe did he gain from your presence on the court?
Tre Coggins and myself worked hand in hand on the court.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Tre Coggins?
We never played against each other one on one but if we did play I would win
How would your NBA Rushmore look like? Which 4 heads would you pick?
-Kobe -Eric Bledsoe -Campbell Walker -Michael Conley
Lebron James failed to win his fourth NBA title and is still three away from Michael Jordan. Where does Lebron stand right now in your opinion in the never ending debate of who is the best of all-time?
I think that between the two there shouldn’t be no comparison, but Lebron is a great player! Michael Jordan is considered a legend, and I’m not sure I view Lebron James the same way. I feel like Kobe is closer to what I see Michael Jordan as.
There has been criticism of Russell Westbrook to be focusing more on rebounding to help inflate his stats and possibilities of getting triple doubles instead of focusing on his defensive assignments. Do you feel that this is a fair assessment to the player Russell Westbrook?
It’s not fair. Because he’s just doing what he does best on the court. As he already averages triple doubles and he’s one of the realist defensive specialist I’ve seen in the NBA. Gaining rebounds is good but it takes away from his specialty or strength on the court.
Where will the journey of the Houston Rockets go this season with Chris Paul and James Harden in the back court. Do they have enough to make a serious run at the title or is something missing?
Yes sir . Chris Paul and James Harden together will mesh very well on the court. They have more than enough to make a serious run at the title this season, they just need to be smart in utilizing the two.
How do you rate the Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas trade? Who got the better deal and which team will profit better in the long run?
In my opinion, I see Kyrie Irving as a great player; he’s a very consistent 3 point shooter, and handles the ball very well throughout the game. But, since the Cavaliers are not only getting one great player, I feel like they have the benefit of the doubt in this trade.
What was the last movie that you saw?
The last movie I saw was Get Rich or Die Trying
Thanks Lionheart for the chat.