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Post Travis Leslie, the basketball player

Wednesday February 10, 2010

First, go read this item that the Georgia Sports Blog had last week about Travis Leslie. The development of Leslie, which – as PWD pointed out – has only picked up steam in conference play, is one of the real bright spots of this season. Here’s the key point:

Obviously, Leslie’s natural abilities are considerable, but it’s his ability to play within the system and grow his game that gives me considerable hope for Coach Fox’s ability to develop players.

We saw just what PWD was talking about in Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt. It’s one thing to see improvement in skills – Leslie is certainly a better shooter this year, and his range continues to increase. That’s significant by itself. But what’s really rewarding for a coach to see is when a player begins to understand enough about himself and the game to adjust his approach to the game on the fly.

Things weren’t going Leslie’s way in the first half on Saturday. He managed four points on a pair of longer jumpshots. Leslie’s bread and butter, the acrobatic plays around the basket, weren’t there. Vandy defended them well and was sure to put a body on Leslie when he tried to go to the basket. It was good strategy, actually. Leslie’s athleticism lets him play bigger than he is, but a physical style of play can get to a player like that. The strategy was effective: Leslie’s four points came on 2-5 shooting, and he was already responsible for three turnovers.

The contact around the basket could have and probably did frustrate Leslie. There weren’t going to be any Sportscenter-worthy highlights to come out of this game. To his credit, Leslie began to use the physical play of Vandy against them. Though he got few open shots again (just 2-of-3 from the floor in the second half), he kept going to the basket and, instead of losing control and turning the ball over, used the contact to draw fouls. Before long, he was into double-figures on free throws alone. Leslie ended up shooting 9-12 from the foul line in the second half after not going to the line once in the first period. He’d finish with a team-high 17 points and just one turnover in the second half not by putting on another show but by, as PWD put it, playing within the system and playing smart ball.

Leslie isn’t the only player to add to his game. McPhee’s baseline runner was a shock to see at first, but now you can more or less count on him going baseline at least once or twice a game and making nice use of the glass. Not bad for a spot-up shooter. These are the little things that have led to Georgia’s surprisingly effective offense. Coaching is taking root – Fox’s challenge to “be a basketball player who’s a great athlete as opposed to a great athlete who plays basketball” has been the driving force behind Leslie’s improvement.

Leslie and the rest of the Dawgs will try to take another step forward and earn their first road win of the year when they visit Auburn tonight (CSS, 9:00). They’ll also be trying for the program’s first consecutive conference wins since the tournament run in 2008.

PS…though this post is mostly about how Leslie has added to his repertoire, there’s no doubt that he remains the best dunker in the SEC. The SEC website has a poll up on that very topic – go vote early and often for “Top 10” Travis.

One Response to 'Travis Leslie, the basketball player'

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  • TL did a great job vs. Vandy. He was getting banged around a bit, but what I liked was that he was NOT afraid to take it to the hole. His development since last year has been phenomenal.