Puerto Rico Tip-Off Player Spotlight – C.J. Leslie (NC State)
For much of my lifetime, North Carolina State University has struggled to share the limelight with neighboring basketball powerhouses Duke and North Carolina. However, NC State basketball has a deep and storied history similar to its two neighboring universities.
Since 1950, the Wolfpack have made 23 NCAA tournament appearances and have won two national championships. For NC State to have such a rich tradition, it is a crime to only associate the team with legendary coach Jim Valvano, just ask 6’9” junior forward for the current NC State squad, C.J. Leslie.
Growing up in tobacco road, one can only imagine C.J.’s childhood experiences. Leslie’s entire neighborhood was such a diverse area of Duke, UNC, and NC State fans that each house consistently fought for bragging rights.
So, rather than get involved in such arguments, Leslie opted to not pick between the three, and instead, simply become an NBA fan and root for Kevin Garnett. It was almost a requirement to pick one of the three collegiate teams, but C.J. figured, why watch college ball when professional ball was the end goal?
At the age of five C.J. started playing basketball because his three older brothers all played. Leslie had a storied high school career at Word of God Christian Academy, where he played alongside now NBA player John Wall. There he was selected as a McDonald’s All-American and was recruited by the likes of UConn, Kentucky, and a school just 15 minutes down the road, NC State.
When former NC State coach Sydney Lowe approached C.J. about the possibility of playing at NC State, C.J.’s mother, Lisa, could not pass up the offer. Lisa grew up watching David Thompson and was an avid NC State fan, and the thought of having to drive only 15 miles to watch her son play was just too golden to let go.
As a freshman, Leslie struggled under Lowe to perform with a positive attitude both on and off the court. Even though Leslie was named to the ACC All-Freshmen team for posting 11 points per game and 7 rebounds per game, time was certainly necessary for C.J. to learn how to perform in the classroom, while at the same time showcasing his talents on the hardwood.
It was not until his sophomore year, when NC State athletic director Debbie Yow relieved Lowe of his coaching duties and brought in the now current head coach, Mark Gottfried, that C.J. was transformed into a serious NBA prospect. Gottfried’s first change as coach was to call C.J. by his full name, Calvin Junior, to show to Leslie that a new name represents a new you.
During NC State’s last 11 games last year, Leslie average 18 points and 9 boards a game for a team that reached the Sweet 16. Leslie’s impressive ACC tournament helped receive ACC All-Tournament first team honors, in addition to his already All-ACC second-team selection.
Coming into his junior season, Calvin Junior Leslie is looking to lead his Wolfpack team to a national championship, a victory his school has not experienced since Valvano’s 1983 squad.
Already named to the 2012-2013 Naismith Early Season Watch List, Leslie is expected to do big things this year. Leslie would have been a late first round or early second round draft NBA pick last year, but he decided to return to school because he felt at home under Coach Gottfried.
The 2012-2013 campaign started out with a bang for Leslie as he posted 11 points and 8 rebounds in only 27 minutes in a 97-59 victory over Miami (OH). He looks to now continue that success as he and his Wolfpack travel to San Juan for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament.
As the #6 team in the country, NC State is the early favorite to run past a field that includes Penn State, Providence, Tennessee, UMass, UNC-Asheville, Akron, and Oklahoma State.
C.J. Leslie will be a match-up nightmare for any team he faces in the tournament. Leslie can post up like Kevin Garnett one possession, then run the fast break as if he were a guard the next.
C.J. will be going up against a very weak frontcourt in NC State’s first game of the tournament against Tim Frazier and Penn State. Look for Leslie to take advantage of Penn State’s lack of post presence and dominate every phase of the game. As NC State continues on in the tournament look for Leslie to cause problems for every team, not just Penn State.
As Calvin Junior Leslie progresses through his promising junior season, know that he will be reminiscing about that dream of his to play in the NBA one day. And like the late, great Jim Valvano once said, “Be a dreamer. If you don’t know how to dream, you’re dead.” It is safe to say that Leslie is anything but dead, as he has added winning the national championship to his dream bank, in addition to his goal of going pro.
Tyler Feldman is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism and Marketing
Currently, Feldman is an executive producer, reporter and anchor for the Centre County Report, as well as ComRadio’s senior sports director. He also is the host of the Penn State Coaches Show featuring Guy Gadowsky, which airs live from Lettermans on ESPN Radio 1450 and GoPSUSports.com every Tuesday night at 6 p.m. Additionally, he was the first to report the hiring of Joe Moorhead as Penn State football’s new offensive coordinator on December 12, 2015.
He’s a member of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism within the College of Communications and enrolled in the Smeal College of Business.
Feldman, a Pittsburgh native, has broadcasted sporting events from a number of international and professional venues, including Estadio Latinoamericano in Cuba, Madison Square Garden, CONSOL Energy Center, Wells Fargo Center, MetLife Stadium, M&T Bank Stadium, and EverBank Field.
Last spring, he traveled with the Penn State men’s volleyball team as their play-by-play man, announcing his very first NCAA tournament matches at Stanford’s Maples Pavilion.
He has gained valuable broadcasting and reporting experience interning and working at WTAJ-TV, MLB Network, GoPSUSports.com, 105.9 The X, 970 AM ESPN, Big Ten Network Student U, and State College’s ESPN Radio 1450.
Feldman has a strong passion for sports and dreams to become a sports anchor/reporter in a national market and/or a hockey play-by-play announcer.