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Chris Dortch

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Jon Leuer reminds some of Dirk Nowitzki with his ability to shoot as a 6-foot-10 forward.
Andy Lyons/NBAE/Getty Images

Leuer's skillset presents intriguing possibilities for NBA


Posted Jun 8 2011 2:10PM

Former Wisconsin star Jon Leuer is holding nothing back in the final weeks leading up to the NBA Draft.

There are documented examples of that -- he finished with the 10th lowest time in the lane agility drill at last month's Chicago combine -- and also some undocumented examples, seen only by some pleasantly surprised NBA executives during recent workouts with two different teams.

Well, that's not entirely true. In both cases there was an innocent victim involved that got an eyeful of Leuer.

"In two of my workouts, I dunked on a couple of guys -- I'm not going to say who -- where, off the dribble, with one or two bounces, I took off with one leg and threw it down," Leuer said. "They weren't really expecting that."

As the Wisconsin fans who were lucky enough to watch Leuer play the last couple of seasons know, he's got a weapon or two in his offensive arsenal, befitting a man who was a 6-foot point guard as a freshman in high school and a 6-10 power forward by the time he was a junior. Unlike a lot of players who go through similar growth spurts, Leuer retained his guard skills and thus became a perfect player for Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, whose inverted offense, where guards post up and big men make plays with their perimeter passing and bomb away from 3-point range, was priceless preparation in Leuer's quest to become a first-round draft pick.

"If you have a kid the team plays off of, a multiple talent, good things can happen," Ryan said during the NCAA Tournament. "He's a big who can move. He's versatile, has a good feel for the game, doesn't make a lot of mistakes. He takes accountability very seriously."

"Jon had been a guard his whole career," said Wisconsin assistant Greg Gard. "After that growth spurt, he had to learn how to score with his back to the basket, but his perimeter skills have become so useful. With his court awareness, his ball handling, his vision and his ability to pass, he brings guard skills to a big body."

This isn't to suggest that Leuer is a finesse player who avoids the rough stuff in the paint. Quite the contrary. He showed up at Wisconsin packing all of 190 pounds on a Plastic Man frame. Four years later, some diligent weight room work had added nearly 40 pounds of lean muscle. And the Wisconsin coaches encouraged him to learn the jump hook, which Leuer can now launch with either hand, and taught him a few post moves.

The result was that last summer, when Leuer was one of 20 college players chosen to the USA Select team that put the USA Men's National team through its paces during training for the FIBA World Championship, he wasn't afraid to tangle with NBA players down low.

"Going up against Kevin Love and Tyson Chandler and Lamar Odom, some pretty physical guys, I was able to hold my own and be pretty effective," Leuer said. "That really helped my confidence."

Leuer got a more recent confidence boost after traveling to Los Angeles and working out with Don McLean, the former NBA player and leading scorer (2,608 points) in UCLA history. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Reggie Miller and McClean were able to lead the Bruins in scoring for three straight seasons. At 6-10, McLean had a few scoring weapons himself, and he's passed some of them on to Leuer.

"His main thing was facing up in the mid-post area, and if you have that initial shot, take it," Leuer said. "You're going to make it nine out of 10 times. He told me to try and keep it simple. If the shot isn't there, take a few dribbles and pull up, or use a counter move, like a spin or a crossover."

Leuer has patterned his game off Dirk Nowitzki, and there are some comparisons. Watching tape of Leuer's games at Wisconsin it's apparent he was never worried about where he was on the floor in relation to the 3-point line. Leuer can make NBA-range 3-pointers, and if a defender gets into him he can put the ball on the floor, as his two dunking victims during those workouts with NBA teams can attest.

Leuer watched with great interest Nowitzki's game-winning layup as Dallas rallied to beat Miami in Game Two of the NBA Finals on Thursday night.

"You could tell that [Miami's] Chris Bosh was thinking he was going to pull up and shot fake," Leuer said. "But he kind of hesitated and then blew by him. You have to respect his jumper, and that's why he's able to go by guys."

Leuer isn't claiming to be the next Dirk Nowitzki, but if you're a mobile 6-10 forward with a legitimate chance to play in the NBA, is there anyone better to emulate?

"Everybody in interviews always asks, 'Who do you model your game after?' " Leuer said. "And I always say Dirk, for what he's able to do at his size: face up, knock down shots, make plays for others, score in the post.

"He's a good guy to take some of what he does and put it into my game."

Chris Dortch is the editor of the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. You can email him here, follow him on Twitter and listen to the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Hour.

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