A stoic Kawhi Leonard remembers his college basketball days vividly. A lot has changed since then. Leonard’s mid-range jump shot has become unguardable, his 3-point ball is now pure and even his braids have gotten longer since entering the NBA.
But, in some ways, much of his unique game has remained the same. Leonard still hawks opposing ball handlers for much of the game. He hounds, pesters, and breaths down the necks of his opponents until they falter underneath his nonstop pressure and fork over the ball.
Leonard’s demeanor continues to mirror that of an introverted, ball-crazed player whose sole desire is to work on his craft endlessly to perfection. His perplexing personality has aided Leonard in carving out a Hall of Fame bound career. But before he steps into those hallowed grounds and well before he reaches the end of his time in the NBA, Leonard will always look back on his memories in college fondly.
In just a few short days, the next generation of wide-eyed, baby-faced NBA baby boomers will begin their own journey. As Leonard continues to vigorously attack his current rehab assignment as he nurses a torn ACL, the former two-time Defensive Player of the Year had a unique journey.
During his time at San Diego State, Leonard was pegged as a defensive menace with plenty of room for improvement on the offensive side of the ball. But while he’s turned his once tenuous offensive game into a near unstoppable one, the current LA Clippers forward had plenty of explosive games during his time in college.
As the NBA Draft approaches, let’s take a look back at some of Leonard’s greatest games donning a college uniform.
Date: December 9th, 2009
Stats: 23 points, 18 rebounds, 52.9 fg%
Kawhi Leonard’s eyes lit up as Cal State Fullerton sauntered into San Diego State’s home court on December 9th, 2009. From a physical standpoint, Fullerton was in for a long night and Leonard wasted no time in bossing his competition around.
In the first half, Fullerton was quickly and completely overwhelmed. The Aztecs were faster, stronger, and simply the better team. Through 20 brutal one-sided minutes, the Aztecs captured a 16-point lead. They would later go on cruise control, allowing Fullerton to win the second half by two points before winning the game.
Leonard, unsurprisingly, pushed San Diego over the winning edge. Normally bombastic in his efforts on the defensive side of the ball, Leonard crushed Fullerton with his offense. The defensive menace scored 23 points on 52.9% shooting from the field. He was also impossible to keep off the glass, ending the game with 18 total boards.
This game holds a special place in Leonard’s heart. It was his first collegiate game scoring at least 20 points and the 18 boards he grabbed represented the second highest of his career.