Leonard back again for Forest Park

Herald File Photo
Forest Park's Wade Leonard recently returned to action after missing most of January.

By JONATHAN SAXON
jsaxon@dcherald.com

FERDINAND — Wade Leonard plays at guard for the Forest Park boys basketball team, but the junior has (not so) secret ambitions of WWE superstardom. How do we know this? Well, it starts with the tale of two bored boys on New Year’s Eve. Wade and his brother, Drew, were passing the time with an arm wrestling contest, but at a certain point, the stakes were raised higher than a grain elevator.

“He beat me so I was like, 'Alright let’s really wrestle,'” said Leonard. “I threw him down, he landed on my arm and that broke it. At first, I thought I just jammed my wrist.”

Leonard wound up playing in the Rangers’ next game on Jan. 3 against the Paoli Rams, but he was in great pain throughout and couldn’t shoot the ball because of the fracture. Still, that didn’t stop Leonard from toughing it out and finding ways to contribute, which included drawing a charge during what turned into a 63-62 win for the Rangers.

“He got in foul trouble that game, which may have actually been a good thing,” said Rangers coach David Welp. “That just shows the toughness that he has, to go out there and play a game not knowing how severe it was.”

Leonard wound up missing the next six games, in which the Rangers went 2-4, returning to action Jan. 31 at Southridge. Welp said the team missed Leonard a great deal, specifically the toughness and tenacity he brings on the defensive end, where he usually covers the opposing team’s best guard.

“We struggled defensively without him,” said Welp. “He just brings an extra level to our defense. He does a lot of little things that aren’t in the box score.”

Leonard is described as a scrappy defender who does anything he can to annoy his opponent. He swipes at the ball, crowds his man and routinely denies access to the paint. Leonard isn’t afraid to bring it against anybody, and he credits his upbringing with instilling the gritty attitude he brings to the court.

“I grew up on a farm and I always had to be hard-nosed,” he said. “I just feel the same way about everything I do. You might as well go as hard as you can while you’re doing it.”

It’s the same attitude he held as sophomore, where he was determined to maximize his limited minutes with all the effort he could to take care of the small details for the team. Now that mindset has created more room for him on the floor and more opportunities to contribute in different ways. He’s been working on his outside shot, but Leonard believes grinding away on defense is what he does best. The intensity and energy he brings on that end of the floor is infectious and has a way of raising the bar for the rest of the guys he shares the floor with.

“Whenever our team brings passion and energy, nobody can beat us,” he said. “Whenever we’re all out there playing together, having fun and getting after it, there’s no other team I’d want to play for.”

 




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