Still writing his own legacy, junior Anthony Leal on pace to become one of Bloomington South's all-time greats
BLOOMINGTON — Anthony Leal is a humble superstar. He goes about his business with maximum focus and drive, placing distractions by the wayside in favor of dogged determination to keep pushing himself towards further heights.
Bloomington South’s junior basketball recruit can go bananas on the court in the blink of an eye. The 6-foot-5 Leal has fans and college scouts alike wagging their tongues with his blend of refined fundamentals and highlight-reel moves.
However, he definitely doesn’t let himself be fazed by the hype, the talk of big-time college hoops and him possibly becoming an all-time great in the city’s rich high school hardwood history. Instead, he stays hungry and in attack position whenever he’s on the floor. He prides himself in never being satisfied.
“I still have a long way to go,” he said.
Both the town he was raised in and the school he plays for have made a major impact on him as a person and playmaker.
“I’ve been extremely lucky to grow up in the heart of basketball country here in Bloomington,” he said. “The city has played a huge part in my love of the game. Playing for South, there are heavy expectations. There’s a tradition of excellence here, an expectation for consistent success, and it’s my job to uphold that tradition. I’m just honored to be a part of continuing that tradition, to be honest.”
Crafty and athletic at the two-guard spot, Leal is averaging 22 points per game for a South squad sitting 17-3 and ranked No. 17 in the state at the time of the last Indiana Basketball Coaches Association top 20 poll. While dropping in 30 points last week in his Panthers 77-76 edging of Silver Creek, he surpassed the 1,000 career-point milestone.
His coach, the distinguished Bloomington bench baron, J.R. Holmes, is fast approaching breaking the IHSAA record for career wins (806). He believes that Leal has the potential to leave the kind of legacy left by previous all-state Panther guards Jordan Hulls (2009 Mr. Basketball), Dee Davis (Class of 2011) and Holmes’ own son Jonathan, the runner-up in the 1999 Mr. Basketball race.
“You can see what he’s becoming (before your eyes) … if he stays playing at this clip, he’ll be one of the best we’ve ever had here,” Holmes said. “He’s definitely as good as any junior that’s played for me. And he’s got the size, Jordy, Dee and Jonathan didn’t have. That’s an advantage right there. Anthony can really shoot, he’s got a soft touch, he can get to the hoop and create for himself at the rim and he’s clutch, we know we can go to him down the stretch. You've got to remember, he still has two state tournaments to play, so his legacy has really yet to be written. It’s wide open.”
Northwestern, Maryland, Iowa, Stanford, Xavier and Butler have all offered Leal scholarships. Rumors are circulating that Indiana and Purdue will be next. Past “high-major” prospects from Bloomington to stay in Bloomington for college by attending IU, include Hulls and 2000 Mr. Basketball and Bloomington North grad Jared Jeffries, a future NBA vet.
“I’m taking it all in, I’m not in a rush … I appreciate the significance of the whole process,” Leal said.
[Photo credit: Jeremy Hogan | Herald-Times]