“Center court, opposite side of the benches, up probably 20 rows.”
If you’ve been to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, you know those are pretty good seats.
From that vantage point, a young boy could get a good look at future NBA stars like Eric Gordon, Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo.
And from that vantage point, a young boy became a big fan.
Was new IU basketball commit Anthony Leal really a fan of the Hoosier program growing up?
“Oh yeah, without a doubt,” he told The Daily Hoosier.
“We had season tickets for many years growing up,” Leal said.
Who did Leal idolize as a young boy watching the Hoosiers?
“The Hulls and Oladipo teams, and as early as Gordon and guys like that. I really loved the way Jordy (Hulls) and those guys played when they were there,” Leal said.
Leal has one more year of high school at nearby Bloomington South, but it won’t be long before his parents have the surreal experience of watching their own son run out of the same tunnels that they have watched so many players emerge from over the years to the sound of “Indiana, our Indiana.”
Hulls, who now plays professionally in Germany, is another Bloomington South product, and the two have spoken about the unique opportunity to stay home and play college basketball in their hometown.
“We were in touch a couple times, obviously we are both busy but we talked a few times,” Leal told The Daily Hoosier.
“I just asked him for his perspective and he just pointed out how special of an opportunity it is, especially being from Bloomington.”
The 6-foot-5 Leal consulted familiar faces regarding his college decision, and he’ll see plenty more when he arrives on campus.
When the shooting guard gets to IU next summer, he will be joined by a long time AAU teammate and good friend in Trey Galloway. The 6-foot-4 Culver Academies guard committed to Indiana a couple weeks ago.
The pair have been spring and summer teammates for several years, and while one who hasn’t watched them play might assume that there isn’t a spot in the rotation for both, Leal doesn’t see it that way.
“We complement each other because every time we go out on the court the main priority is getting the win,” Leal said. “We both are willing to do whatever it takes to win.”
“And we help each other out because we are both obviously two guys that are able to play multiple positions and do multiple things on offense and defense. I’d say that we are different but we are pretty similar as well.”
Leal and Galloway spent time together this summer over the Fourth of July weekend at Culver, but that was more about two young friends hanging out rather than recruiting.
When it came to committing to a college, Leal and Galloway were on parallel but separate paths.
“We’ve always kind of talked about it but it was never an epiphany moment or anything,” Leal said. “We both had to handle our business separately to make sure that we were making the right decisions for ourselves.”
But don’t be mistaken. The duo is excited about playing together in college.
“We both knew that if it eventually ended up being the same place then that would be really special for both of us and our families,” Leal added.
Leal’s decision involved a unique aspect, that few, at least outside of athletics, pass up.
To pick IU meant saying no to his other finalist Stanford. With a GPA well north of 4.0, Leal believes that Indiana can meet his academic needs although he doesn’t have his specific path charted out just yet.
“Not anything specifically yet. Hopefully just get to my highest potential, whatever kind of degree that is.”
A laser focus on his “highest potential” is a large part of the story behind what has gotten Leal to this point both academically and on the basketball court.
It is also something that stood out to the IU coaching staff.
“They acknowledged it as a unique attribute that I have about my playing style and my style as a person,” Leal said.
If nothing else in year one in Bloomington, Leal believes that same drive and determination will be apparent to fans from the start.
“I think it’s going to be pretty clear the passion and the pride that I’m going to bring in just having that name across my chest,” Leal said. “I’m really hoping to make that kind of energy infectious around the team and the program and the community.”
For a Bloomington kid, it means even more to Leal.
He wants to be the catalyst for a revival that reminds folks of better days — back to a time when he was in the stands as a young fan.
“Just to kind of revive that kind of passion and pride behind wearing the Indiana jersey that I fell in love with growing up,” Leal told The Daily Hoosier.
But before he can wear the Indiana jersey, there is work to be done.
One more year of high school basketball — and a new job — as a recruiter.
His energy now well established, Leal already has other IU class of 2020 targets in his sights.
“I’ve been friends with (6-foot-11 Minnesota 5-star) Dawson Garcia the last year or two playing against him on the circuit,” Leal said. “So I am definitely going to talk to him just to try get his mind thinking about IU.”
“And then Matt Cross as well. Hopefully talk to them and see where they’re at and try to encourage them to be a part of something special.”
For Leal to be ready for the next level, he knows that he has to work on himself too. A student of Big Ten basketball, he knows that the league eats up and spits out kids that aren’t physically ready for the rigors of its own unique brand of basketball.
“The most obvious thing in going from high school to playing in the Big Ten is being tough, being strong, and being able to hang with those guys physically,” Leal told The Daily Hoosier.
“I am confident that I can do that mentally, but I’m going to definitely have to work on being stronger, being stronger with the ball, being more athletic, being tougher in general.”
There is no doubt that Leal will put in the work.
His work ethic was a major reason why Archie Miller couldn’t pass up the local product, and Leal has a similar belief in the direction of the program under the third year head coach.
“I really believe that what Coach Miller has in store is going to be something special,” Leal said.
Leal will no doubt know “something special” when he sees it.
Because he has seen it before.
From center court, about 20 rows up.
You can follow us on Twitter: @daily_hoosier
Find us on Facebook: thedailyhoosier
The Daily Hoosier –“Where Indiana fans assemble when they’re not at Assembly”
Seven ways to support completely free IU coverage at no additional cost to you.