RHODY TAKES ON BROWN WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 7 AT 7PM AND ARMY SATURDAY DECEMBER 10 AT 2PM BOTH LIVE ON YURVIEW – COX CHANNEL 4.
When Archie Miller accepted the head coaching position at Rhode Island he knew a rebuild was in order. Ishmael Leggett listened to Miller’s new message, considered, and decided to remain. What a terrific development it’s been for both he and the University of Rhode Island men’s basketball program.
Through eight games, the redshirt sophomore is averaging 17.5ppg, 5.5rpg, and 3.1apg, pairing consistent production with critical leadership. We caught up for a quick conversation as Rhode Island readies for three straight home games and an opportunity to pivot the non-conference narrative if they can grab a few wins.
Chris DiSano: I know you’re team first, but you’re having a tremendous individual start to this season, playing at an Atlantic 10 all-conference level. You put in a ton of offseason work and it’s paying off. Can you share your thoughts on your fast start and is there a part of your game early on that is coming along faster than even you anticipated?
Ishmael Leggett: It’s about trusting my work, like you said, over the summer. Countless hours of work and getting in the game and trusting everything I worked on will be able to show. For me, taking it one game at a time, not thinking too much ahead, being present each day and giving max effort in practice and the game is what it’s about. Not letting my head get too far ahead in the process.
What has surpassed my expectations most is my mid-range game. It’s come a long way. Last year I wasn’t making half the shots that I am this year. This goes back to trusting your work, finding deficiencies in your game, and attacking them. You have to be bad at something first in order to be good at it. The mid-range game is an area I’ve improved.
CDD: Let’s talk about the Tulane game in the Cayman Islands for a moment. Quite a shooting exhibition in John Gray Gymnasium where you went for 34 points on 13-19 shooting. You’re a player who impacts the box score in more ways than scoring … Was that an all-time high at any level for you?
IL: That’s definitely my career high other than scoring 40 in the 4th grade (laughs). That game was my career-high at the high school and college level. I may have been close in high school but I know I never got to 34.
CDD: Let’s shift to the team. The wins haven’t been there as I’m sure you guys want, but there’s been growth. What have you seen collectively from the guys between summer sessions and now?
IL: Sticking with it. Our win loss categories aren’t showing the amount of work we put in during the offseason and season, but each day we stick together and are grinding it out. If we continue to do this, some of these losses will eventually turn into wins. It just takes one for us to get on a roll. The biggest thing I’ve seen is us not splintering out. We’re getting even closer in times like this when our record doesn’t reflect the amount of work we’ve put in and things aren’t going our way. Even so, we’ve become a closer group and a more connected group.
CDD: Saturday’s game was your first rivalry game against PC at home. Result aside, what are your feelings about the atmosphere and describe how you felt coming through the tunnel onto the Ryan Center floor?
IL: It was electric. It’s one of a kind being in the Ryan Center when it’s jammed pack like that. I felt the crowd’s energy and the tension between the two teams. It was an awesome opportunity to be able to play in an environment like that – it will prepare us for any setting, like when we go play another team with a huge arena and lots of fans come. Being in the environment was a bonus for me as a player to get me acclimated. It helped me and us as a team.
CDD: We spoke a couple of months ago and you discussed how you were comfortable with your decision to stay and knew you made the right decision. What have you learned during these last several months of being coached by Archie and this entire staff?
IL: I can say they’ve helped me become a more complete player on both sides of the ball. As one of the leaders on this team, they’ve instilled confidence in me to be able to rally the guys together when things aren’t going well. They’ve taught me many things since the last time we talked and I’m glad to be a sponge. One message that has stuck is that the coaches are always saying “You don’t win games on game day.” The first time I heard it, I sat back and really thought about it… the preparation that goes into it… when gametime hits it’s just another day to be honest. You’re going to go back to doing the things you do normally, so in practice what you do normally is what shows up in a game. You win games two or three practices before. It’s a perspective that stuck with me and that I agree with as well.
CDD: The team has a 3-pack of home games before heading down to Georgia State later in the month, beginning with Brown on Wednesday. It’s an opportunity to get on a roll but, to your point, you have to take it a practice and then game at a time. What are your feelings about this homestretch you’re on and the importance of these games?
IL: Every game is important. A winning December would be big for us. It’s one game at a time, but all it takes as one for us to feel good, confident, and then go get another one… when two turns into three, or four and things of that nature. They are all important games starting with Brown. We’re getting better each time out. Keep our heads down and continue to grind. As far as Brown, they’ve won four of five. They know how to win and are coming in here expecting to do certain things to us… but we have to arrive with the mindset that it’s our home court and we can’t allow those things to happen. They beat Bryant recently and we have to be ready on Wednesday for this in-state challenge for sure.
Chris DiSano, is an Atlantic 10 analyst and writer. He has served as the host of A-10 Live! at Men’s Basketball Media Day and founded the former College Chalktalk. DiSano, who was named NBC Sports top Atlantic 10 basketball follow on Twitter for five straight years, can be found on Twitter at @CDiSano44