Leslie Soars to All-Star Game MVP
HOUSTON, Texas -- Gerald Green, last year's MVP of the NBA D-League All-Star Game, used All-Star Weekend as a launching pad -- quite literally -- to an NBA Call-Up and eventual three-year NBA contract.
This year, a similarly springy swingman, Santa Cruz Warriors guard Travis Leslie, will hope that recipe can be repeated as Leslie was named MVP of this year's game. The high flyer went off for 19 points and seven rebounds while leading his team, the Prospects, over the Futures, 139-125, on Saturday at Sprint Arena.
Out of Georgia, Leslie was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2011 NBA Draft and played 10 games with the team in 2011-12 before being released.
On Saturday, in addition to leading his team in scoring on 8-for-13 shooting, Leslie wowed the crowd with several spectacular dunks, including an alley-oop from a pass that bounced off the ground first.
"It's rare, I'll put it like that," L.A. D-Fenders guard Courtney Fortson said of Leslie's leaping ability. "It's like Gerald Green type of athleticism and you really don't find that, so I'm really looking forward to him being in the NBA soon."
In order for him to do that, however, the 6-foot-4 guard is going to have to prove that he is more than just a human pogo stick.
Fortunately for Leslie, that process seems to have already started. In 21 games with the Warriors this year, Leslie is averaging a team-leading 16.2 points and 7.1 rebounds a night.
His opponents are also noticing the transformation in his game.
"He's been working on his jump shot and his dribbling ability because in college he couldn't really do that," said Fortson, an Arkansas product, who spent time with Leslie in Clippers camp and who played against Leslie in college. "He was like an athletic guy, you know, and could spot shoot, but now he can put it on the floor, play defense and he rebounds."
Much like Green, it is the rounding out of his game that will eventually lead to a Call-Up for Leslie. But -- if Saturday is any indication -- it's still going to be the dunks that steal the headlines. His Twitter handle is @FlightLeslie23 after all. In fact, it was that same jumping ability that initially put him on the map and made him believe he could play in the NBA.
"My sophomore year (of college) I kinda blew up from dunking on people," Leslie said with a laugh.
And, while his aerial exploits seem to have an almost superhuman quality to them, they, to Leslie, are nothing more than just the game he's always known.
"I've been doing it my whole life, so it's really nothing to me," Leslie said. "It's probably something to ya'll, but I just go out there and do what I do best."
As long as "what he does best" continues to evolve, he could soon find himself, much like his MVP predecessor, in greener pastures.