By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
Before his Rough Riders took the court for the second time against Medina Highland on Jan. 27, first-year boys basketball head coach Curtis Black was faced with a difficult decision.
He needed some enthusiasm injected into his second unit and one of the best solutions was actually to tinker with his starting lineup.
After reviewing the personnel needs of both his starting group and sparks off the bench, Black made a decision to shift brothers Grant and Gavin Leslie to the second unit.
“They both had started for a big chunk of the season, but I needed more from our second group,” Black said. “Our flow was off. They have made the best of it and they knew it was what the team needed. I have always been a big believer that it is not about who starts the game, but it is about who finishes it.”
The Leslie brothers — Gavin a senior and Grant a junior — oftentimes are pushed into the lineup at the same time or one shortly after the other.
In last Friday’s road victory at Aurora, the duo’s presence was felt immediately upon entering the game late in the first quarter.
They brought speed and energy to the game and their teammates, with smart plays, quick movement with and without the ball and solid efforts defensively.
The results have provided Black and his Rough Riders exactly what they were looking for.
“There are many quarters now that we have five different scorers in the same quarter,” Black said. “We need that.”
And while the decision has provided benefits, Black also said he won’t commit himself to the idea that it is permanent for the rest of the season.
“We have told our guys from day one that after a loss or a couple of losses, if we want to tear the walls down and completely rebuild, we can. It is our job to fix the problems and sometimes that takes changes. At the end of the day, we want our players to play hard no matter when they go into the game, and we want them to control what they can control: Their body language, their energy, being a good teammate.”
Gavin and Grant Leslie have fit those program philosophies.
On the season, both players have provided a little bit of everything to the team.
Gavin averages 6.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.
Grant averages 3.6 points (but notched 10 in the Riders’ win over the Greenmen), 3.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
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