Leuer’s Leap

Part II: From Badger to Buck

Jon Leuer
“It was definitely a fun night celebrating with my family and friends,” Leuer. said “It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. This is a great opportunity. That’s the way I look at it. I’ve poured a lot into this.

Jon Leuer became a busy resume builder during the months following his junior basketball season at the University of Wisconsin.

During the ensuing summer, he was chosen to the USA Men's Select Team consisting of college players to help the United States men's national basketball team prepare for the FIBA World Championships.

Leuer and his teammates traveled to New York to compete against the likes of Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. When Villanova University’s Jay Wright, who was coaching Team USA, was asked to name the best college player on his Team USA squad, Wright chose Leuer over Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler, Marcus Morris and others.

Leuer received honorable-mention in the Associated Press All-American voting and a first-team all-Big Ten Conference berth from the  league’s coaches following his senior season, during which he averaged team highs of 18.3 ppg and 7.2 rpg. The Badgers went 13-5 in the Big Ten and defeated Belmont and Kansas State to reach the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament before falling to Butler, the eventual runner-up. UW finished 25-9.

Leuer wound up 12th in Wisconsin history with 1,376 career points, became one of just eight Badgers ever to collect 1,300 points and 500 rebounds, and the 621 points he scored as a senior ranked as the third-highest single-season total in school annals. He was part of a class that totaled 100 career wins.

Having completed his collegiate career, Leuer spent the next several months working out for NBA teams leading up to the June 23 draft, which he said was a nerve-racking  experience for him and his family. But it proved to be an enjoyable one, too.

The Bucks chose Leuer in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft with the 40th overall selection.

“It was definitely a fun night celebrating with my family and friends,” Leuer. said “It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. This is a great opportunity. That’s the way I look at it. I’ve poured a lot into this.

“As a big, I can stretch the floor. I think that’s  an area where I can help them. I’ve obviously watched them play quite a bit over the past couple years, and I really like what they do. Playing with a point guard like Brandon Jennings will be fun. I played with him back in high school at the ABCD Camp. He understands the game, finds open guys and is unselfish, so I’m really looking forward to the opportunity in playing in this system.”

A trial greeted Leuer as his professional career unfolded: the NBA lockout.

Leuer signed to play for the Fraport Skyliners Frankfurt team of the German Bundesliga and had to adapt to his first substantial time away from the United States.

“I went for a week with my family when I was younger; otherwise this was my first experience overseas,” Leuer said.  “My dad came over during Thanksgiving and we tried to make  a turkey. But he forgot that the oven wasn’t Celsius.  He was cooking the turkey at 300 degrees Celsius, which is like 600 degrees Fahrenheit. It was a little bit dry, to say the least. But it’s kind of funny looking back on it.

“You have to be able to adapt to a different culture. It was a good life experience for me to get away from what I’m comfortable with and embrace another culture. We had a manager-type guy who was really helpful with anything the American players needed. For the most part, though, we were on our own.”

Leuer averaged 14.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 10 games with the Skyliners and also appeared in three Eurocup games, averaging 12 points and 4.3 rebounds.

“It was good competition, a step up from college,” Leuer said. “I was playing against older, stronger, more mature guys. It was a step up from college, but not quite NBA level.”

Leuer was relieved when the NBA lockout ended on Christmas Day. He had an out in his contract with the Skyliners that allowed him to return to Milwaukee for his first NBA camp.

“I was just like everybody else, reading all the reports (during the lockout),” Leuer said. “Eventually I had to stop because I was getting too caught up in whether it was going to end or not. I just told my agent to call me when it was over. I just tried to focus on what I could control, so I worked hard while I was over there. Once it ended, I was definitely happy to be back.

“It was great. Just getting back to America was nice. You really do appreciate living here. Once I could come back and be a part of this organization, it was just a great opportunity for me.”

Leuer made an impact almost immediately with the Bucks.

He played just one minute in his first NBA game at Charlotte on Dec. 26, but came back the next night with a 14-point, eight-rebound performance in 20 minutes to help the Bucks win their home opener 98-95 over his hometown favorites, the Timberwolves.

“In our first game against Minnesota, I’ll never forget playing well and making a big play at the end of the game,: Leuer said. “Being part of that win was great.”

Leuer made his first NBA start Jan. 12 against Detroit and contributed 15 points, six rebounds, five assists and two blocks to a 102-93 Bucks victory. Through the Bucks’ first 30 games, Leuer had played in 28 and was averaging 5.1 ppg and 2.9 rpg., shooting .513 from the field and .826 from the foul line.

Leuer took some time to reflect a bit when asked what has gone into his rookie diary. “There’s been a lot,” he said with a smile. “It’s been a great experience for me so far. I’m just trying to work hard every day and help this team.”