Ishmael Leggett: “URI Was Everything I Could’ve Wished For”

About a week ago, Rhode Island received its second Class of 2020 commitment from Ishmael Leggett, a 6-foot-2 guard out of St. John’s College High School in Washington D.C. A consensus 3-star recruit, Leggett was sought after by many before choosing the Rams.

I caught up with the newest Ram commitment to discuss life and basketball. Here’s what he had to say:

Chris DiSano: Congrats on your commitment to the Rams. Other than Rhode Island, what other schools recruited you the hardest?

Ishmael Leggett: Besides URI, UNC Charlotte was definitely in there, Wake Forest showed a lot of love, and then towards the end of my recruitment, Georgetown, Northwestern, and Georgia started to show their faces. But I went on two official visits: one was to Rhode Island which I really loved; but I had to see something to compare it to, so I went to UNC Charlotte and that was my second official. It all came down to whichever one I felt more of a connection with, more of a family atmosphere, and somewhere I could see myself in the next four years getting a great education and playing basketball. That’s why I chose Rhode Island.

CD: Overall, did you enjoy the recruiting process or not?

IL: I loved every second of it. Growing up, going into middle school, that’s all I ever thought about. Talking to coaches, making connections, and getting a scholarship offer. I never knew it would take me this far to Rhode Island but the experience was great.

I was kind of overwhelmed with all the coaches texting me, but I found a way to text each and every one of them back because it does get overwhelming at times having your [cell phone] messages kind of full. But I enjoyed the experience and wouldn’t do it any other way if I could. I loved it.

rhody insider uri athletics newsletterCD: Can you describe your connection with Coach Cox?

IL: Coach Cox is tied into St. John’s heavily —and initially I didn’t even know. He’s really transparent. I can tell him anything and he can tell me what’s on his mind. I feel like him as a role model – let alone a coach… he’s a great guy overall and many people from St. John’s have told me the type of guy he is, the type of integrity he has, all those things… and that drew me towards making my decision.

I was unaware early on that he went to St. John’s and then later became the assistant principal for a number of years. I had teachers like my math teacher, strength coach, who knew the type of guy he was and would tell me about him being a great guy. That really said something to me — that my faculty was reaching out to me to share things about him.

CD: Coach Kevin Sutton was heavily involved in your recruitment too, correct? What type of relationship did you form with him over time?

IL: Coach Sutton, I’ve been talking to him for I don’t know how long [laughs]. He’s always positive and I can relate to him in many ways. I had people coming up to me telling me what a great guy he is – people from my AAU team, Team Durant – and how genuine he is. You can tell.

My first time meeting him in person was my first official visit and I could tell he was a good guy and had my best interests in mind. If I stopped playing basketball today he’s somebody I could go and talk to. Our relationship runs deeper than the basketball level and overall it’s a special, special situation for me as I go into my senior year and look forward to playing for the Rams.

CD: Who have you connected with – players-wise – and what did you enjoy about the school/campus environment?

IL: Obviously, Jeff Dowtin is a St. John’s alum. I connected with him before my official visit and then during my official I really got to spend time with him. Beforehand, I was in the 8th grade and he was a senior [in high school] and I used to go watch him play, but never got to connect with him on a personal or basketball level. But getting up to Rhode Island and meeting him and the others guys it was like, “Wow, these guys are just like me — they just want to hoop, get their education and see where it takes them.” I know Jeff is one of the hardest workers, and when he’s gone I’m going to try to be one of the hardest workers.

Outside of Rhode Island, Elijah Wood is also a commit. We touch base a little bit. A bunch of the players have contacted me and I feel like the player connection is really strong. Still working on a couple recruits and I’m trying to put my foot in there [laughs], but many of us built a great connection when I went on my official and it’s continued since then over texts.

As far as the environment, something that spiked my interest is the beach. Had multiple dinners down by the beach and it was everything I could’ve wished for… beach right near the campus, the atmosphere… it was just a feeling. I could really see myself being here. Walking around campus it seemed like a friendly place. It seemed like it was home.

CD: Who have the most positive influences in your life been, both basketball and non-basketball?

IL: I can answer that question honestly with one person. That definitely is my dad. At a young age, he taught me the right and wrong of basketball-related and life things. Recently he got a little sick but he’s still at most of my games, texting me about my form, defense, everything. As far as that goes he’s always been a role model for me. Off the court and on the court he’s one of the biggest reasons why I am who I am and why I am where I am now.

CD: Okay, now are we gonna get you mom mad at us because I’ve heard some great things about her too?

IL: [Laughs] No, my mom is one of the strongest women I know. She says a lot of times that she’s like my agent [laughs]. My dad will handle the basketball part and she’ll handle the agent part. She doesn’t miss a beat. Coaches blow up her phone more than mine. She always says what’s on her mind and will advocate for me. If you know my mom, you know she’s a great woman, mother to me, and overall person.

CD: Okay good… I’m sure I’ll meet her personally soon enough, but I needed to make sure we didn’t get ourselves in trouble. Let’s talk about the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference. How helpful has it been playing in that league and can you provide fans with some perspective on how challenging the competition is consistently?

IL: The WCAC is probably one of the best conferences in the country. In the 8th grade, I came from a school called Landon in Bethesda. I made the switch to St. John’s because the competition is just at another level. Game in and game out you never know who is going to have the hot hand. You’re going against 3, 4, 5… maybe even a whole team of D-1 caliber athletes. You can’t take off any play in any game because they seem to all come down to a possession or two, or a loose ball. The level of competition has prepared me, from physicality to basketball IQ, it pushes you to increase those attributes and be the best you can out there. The amount of competition you play against day in and day out is unmatched, I think, by any other league in the nation.

CD: For Rhode Island fans, can you describe your game?

IL: My game, revolves around my defense and the mentality to get after it on defense. My defense turns into my offense so I thrive on the fast break and I can drive and finish around the rim. I’d say I’m an energizer. I’ll make a play and get my teammates involved when I have to and defensively you can count on me to get that stop when needed.

CD: What’s an area of your game you’ve developed from freshman year in high school to now that you’re most proud of now?

IL: Basketball IQ. As a freshman, I didn’t understand the pick and roll, I didn’t really “see” a play before it happened. Now I can recognize ball screen coverages and other aspects of the game. The experience in the WCAC has helped.

CD: What’s an area you want to work on as you continue to grow?

IL: I need to work on my mid-range game and off the dribble pull-ups. My game is mostly predicated off of getting to the rim. Adding a one-dribble pull up in there would be huge lift for my game as far as scoring. As far as my shooting range, when I went to the EYBL and Team Durant, the three-point line was the international one, so that helped me work on extending my range and I’ll continue to do that this year.

CD: As you ready yourself to enter the Atlantic 10, what are your thoughts on playing in the A-10?

IL: I think the A-10 is an extremely competitive league filled with great teams. Many recruited me and I think the level of competition is overlooked. The A-10 has some of the hardest playing teams in college basketball. I know Rhode Island is known for their toughness and when I get there I’ll add to that and continue to push my teammates to be better.

CD: When will you be back up to URI’s campus?

IL: I definitely have to come during the season to check out the in-game atmosphere. I know it’s going to be crazy, the fans will be rowdy, and I can’t wait to get up there and get the full experience of what it’s like to be a Ram. Can’t wait!