On the day Kiara Leslie committed to Maryland, her older brother announced that he would forgo his senior season at North Carolina State and enter the NBA draft.
C.J. Leslie, who averaged 15 points and 7.4 rebounds as a junior for the Wolfpack, was clearly focused on his future leading up to last week’s NBA declaration. But the 6-foot-9 forward – who was heavily recruited by Maryland before picking N.C. State three years ago – did find time to advise his 6-foot sister on navigating the recruiting process.
“He told me … I should go to a program that’s already strong and not try to help build one up,” Kiara Leslie said. “He was neutral in the whole thing. He just wanted to make sure I’d go somewhere I’d be happy.”
Thanks in part to her NBA-bound brother’s advice, Leslie committed to the Terps one week ago, giving coach Brenda Frese a potential heir apparent to All-American Alyssa Thomas.
“They want me to come in and [make] a major impact since Alyssa is leaving the year I’m coming in,” Leslie said. “I guess they want me to come in and fill her shoes.”
As a junior, Leslie averaged 20 points and 11 rebounds in leading Holly Springs (N.C.) High to a 26-4 record and the third round of the North Carolina Class 4A playoffs. Leslie, who scored her 1,000thcareer point this season, has won back-to-back conference Player of the Year awards and made N.C. Preps’ All-State team playing the point forward position for Holly Springs.
“She runs the point most of the time and leads our team in rebounding,” said Holly Springs coach Richard Young. “She guards the best player on the other team, no matter what position they are. When you talk about growth as well, she’s a more vocal leader. She really likes to lead by example. As a point guard, as a leader, you [saw her] get more vocal and stepping up in that role last year.”
There is no doubt in Young’s mind that Leslie – a four-star prospect according to ESPN.com – has a bright future in College Park.
“She’s probably a 2 because she can handle the ball,” Young said. “She’s been playing point guard for two years. Frese will have her at the 2. Just by watching Big Ten basketball, I don’t know of any 2-guard that can match up with her pound for pound and athletically. She’s also 170-plus pounds – she’s just solid muscle.”
Athleticism is another hallmark of Leslie's game, as evidenced by her reportedly dunking once in practice.
“The girls have [seen it],” Young said. “’Coach, she really did it, she really did it!’ To answer your question honestly, I have not. I’ve been watching basketball for a real long time. She’s right there, grabs the rim, just has to push it there. She can jump and grab the rim with two hands. I’ve never seen a girl do that.”
Leslie said she’s “a little rusty” when it comes to dunking, but she hopes to do it again soon. Until then, she’ll continue focusing on improving the more important aspects of her game before joining the Terps in the fall of 2014.
“[I’m just excited] going into a winning program and knowing that I’m going to be successful there,” she said.