Ever since Kenneth Lesley Jr. could walk, he has had a deep passion for basketball. It’s in his blood. It’s in his dreams and according to him, there is nothing better than the sound of his sneakers cruising down the paint then him setting up for that dunk.
“It’s my dream to go to the big show,” said Lesley. “It’s what I thrive for and it’s what I was put here to do, play, inspire and be a part of the greatest game ever.”
Over the last couple years the residents of Elsberry have watched in amazement as this young all-star has contributed to some of the best games on the court. However, what he has learned and accomplished over the summer is something he said has taken him to a whole new level.
“When summer first hit, I kind of let my game go a bit, call it a break if you will, but as we began hitting up tournaments and going to places like Virginia, Georgia and a bunch of different states I started going back to the gym,” explained Lesley. “After a while of doing that, my game started improving again, got my shot down and by the time we hit Texas I was on point.”
According to Lesley there were quite a few games where he was hitting 26 points a game, 10 rebounds and a few blocks playing with the 16-U traveling Eagles Team. Apparently his hard work in the gym paid off, but his feelings would soon be humbled after being approached by his coach following a game he felt he pealed the paint off of.
“During that game I felt like I did really well. I didn’t have 26 points or anything like that but I still had 14 points and was attacking the boards hard, had quite a few rebounds and on defense I was a threat,” said Lesley. “Like I said, I thought I was doing well. But after the game my coach came up and told me I didn’t do [nothing]. He said I wasn’t aggressive enough and on offense I could have just stood there because no one was too worried about me.”
For Lesley, his coach’s words hit home. He said he began to think about what he’s been told by coaches, both high school and college, he needs to get more aggressive, be meaner, he has to go out there and take it to heart.
“If someone wants to guard me, I have to take it personally,” said Lesley. “I have to show them they can’t guard me.”
However, he went on to say that he needs to avoid getting in to foul trouble, which is something Lesley seemed to get into almost every game. But in the same sense, Lesley explained that he also seems to play his best when there are no other options available.
“I have a tendency to play to over comfortably when I’m not in fear of being out the game,” said Lesley. “My fear is picking up that next foul, but for some reason when I get that fourth foul, it’s just like, ‘Ok one more and I’m out.’ It’s that thought that allows me to play smarter, better and harder and I learned that if I just play every game like ‘I’m one and done,’ then everything just seems to click.”
A lot of the changes Lesley seemed to make over the summer are a clear result of becoming a more mature and more determined player.
“We want to get out there. We want to win. We want to go to State and I want to be involved in basketball the rest of my life,” said Lesley. “I’ve discovered more about me this summer. I learned I was slacking and now I’m growing. I learned that I can’t play in fear or under rule. I have to go out there and play with my heart. I have to play the way I know I can and I have to be a leader.”
The key thing Lesley said he wanted to prove this upcoming basketball season, was show he can lead with more than words. He explained he has to be the example on and off the court and prove he is worthy of the spot.
“I can’t go in there thinking, ‘I’m Kenny Lesley. I’m invincible,’ because I’m not,” said Lesley. “I had a lot of fun this summer, but it was definitely more of a growing and learning experience for me than anything.”
Some of the tournaments Lesley played in this summer include the Coach T Classic, the Gateway Invitational, the NY2LA-Swish-n-Dish, the Nike Spring Showdown, Peach Jam, the Chicago Summer Jam, the KC Prep Invitational and several others. However, it was his break out at the Nike Spring Showdown that seemed to stick out for Lesley.
“I think my breakout game was my favorite game over the summer because out the three or four Nike Tournaments available, you have to make it to the final four, in one of them, in order to get a shot at Peach jam,” explained Lesley. “The game we played to get into the final four, something clicked in my head that said, ‘If we lose we won’t make it to Peach Jam.’ For whatever reason, I just went as hard as I could for as long as I could. I dove, I ran, at one point I almost jumped over an entire player for the dunk and did whatever I could to make sure the other team did not get the ball.”
Lesley went on to say how people are going to see the “real Kenny Lesley.” According to him, he knows what has to be done and will not stop until it gets done.
“For me, this is my way into college,” said Lesley. “At this point the only person I can blame if I fail is myself and I refuse to fail.”
Lesley was named one of the Top Missouri Sophomores, Class of 2015, for his ability to play Forward, a position he hopes to see going into the 2013-2014 Elsberry Basketball season.
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