C.J. Leslie Dishes on Real Reason Why He Backed Out on N.C. State
Words. Jason Jordan
Super recruit who backed out of his N.C. State commitment now has his eye on UNC, Florida and Kentucky.
You’d be hard pressed to find another player with the freakish hops and never-ending motor of Word of God Academy (N.C.) forward C.J. Leslie. Whether it’s pinning an opposing player’s shot to the backboard or throwing down a tomahawk jam in heavy traffic, Leslie, rated the No. 12 prospect on the HighSchoolHoop Top 50, never wants for “oohs” from the crowd. But as much as Leslie loves the attention he gets for his amazing athletic abilities, he cringes at the notion that people only remember his high-wire act.
“I hate that,” says Leslie. “There is so much more to my game that just stuff.”
Leslie chatted with HighSchoolHoop about why his jump shot may now be the most memorable aspect of his game, his recent visit to North Carolina, and why he really backed out of his commitment to North Carolina State.
HighSchoolHoop: You visited North Carolina recently, right?
C.J. Leslie: Yes.
HSH: How did that go?
CL: It went real good. I had a chance to see the campus and everything like that and I played with the guys there. I really liked everything about the school.
HSH: Did you meet with North Carolina head coach Roy Williams?
HSH: Did he offer you?
CL: Well, you know how Roy is … If I was planning to go ahead and commit now it would be fine. I told him I wasn’t ready to decide, and he said that he would just continue to recruit me. He said if I were in a hurry we could’ve went ahead and made this happen. But for now he said he’s just gonna keep on recruiting me.
HSH: What other schools are you considering?
CL: Arizona State, Florida, Maryland, Kentucky, Miami… I know I left a few off. The list is really long.
HSH: Let’s back up for a second – Why did you back out of your commitment to North Carolina State?
CL: Well, I felt like it was just too early. I really didn’t get to look anywhere else, and I wanted to go through the process. I wanted to make sure that it was the right situation for me.
HSH: Well, from our perspective, it looked like a situation where they were the first school to offer you and you got excited and pulled the trigger. Then your talent manifested and Raleigh just wasn’t big enough for you…
CL: (Laughs) You know a lot of people say that same thing. It would amaze you how often I hear that. I don’t even know who half of the people are that say that to me. I could just be walking down the street and someone will stop me and say, “You’re way too good to go to State.” It’s crazy.
HSH: I’m curious, did the overall lack of respect for the State program contribute to you de-commiting?
CL: I don’t know about that. I’m not gonna lie, it didn’t help the program to hear that stuff all the time. But it wasn’t a big affect. It had an affect, but it wasn’t a big affect.
HSH: Your athleticism is what you’re most known for, whether it’s putting someone on a poster or swatting someone’s shot out of bounds. But I wonder if you’re to the point where you don’t want that to be your only claim to fame?
CL: I definitely understand what you mean by that, and I do get a little offended when people just limit me to dunking or blocking someone’s shot. I can handle the ball and I’m a good passer, and right now I’m really shooting well. I know that I bring a lot more to the game than just athletic plays. But yeah I’ve thought about that before and I try and do a lot of different things out there to show people that I’m not just a one-dimensional player.
HSH: What’s something that you do well on the court that gets lost in all of your highlights?
CL: I would have to say shooting 3s.
HSH: I know you shot really well at the Tournament of Champions. What would you say your percentage has been from the 3-point line this AAU season?
CL: Somewhere near 45 percent. I’ve been shooting in really well. That’s definitely the biggest improvement in my game.
HSH: What’s your vertical leap?
CL: You know what, I’ve never done that before. I’m gonna have to get on that. People tell me a lot that I need to do it and I have no clue what it would be.
HSH: What’s your schedule for the rest of the summer?
CL: I’m doing the NBA Camp then I go to Vince Carter’s camp. After that, I’m gonna come back and have my birthday party. I’m looking forward to that.
HSH: Are you taking anymore visits?
CL: I think that I’m gonna go to Florida’s Elite Camp.
HSH: Do you have a timeline for when you want to get everything decided?
CL: At some point next fall. I like a lot of schools, but I’ve got to narrow it down.
HSH: Do you have any schools on your list that will definitely make the cut when you narrow it down?
CL: I can tell you Kentucky’s gonna be up there. I’m pretty sure that Carolina will be up there. The Gators will probably be up there too. That’s it for right now. I would say those three will definitely be on the list.
Check out some video of C.J.’s ridiculous hops: