Tuesday, June 21, 2011
"Ace Shooter has to work on it"
Murray Hills/Taranaki Daily News
Some sportsmen and sportswomen are naturally talented, others have to work hard to reach the top in their chosen sport.
Jack Leasure is one of the latter brigade. He knows he needs to go that extra mile and practise when others have headed home.
That sort of attitude and dedication led the American basketballer to set himself a personal challenge at the start of the year – 10,000 made shots in 26 days.
It was hard and it was lonely. One man in a gym shooting baskets.
"I was shooting about 550 a day, making 400. It was tough mentally, but once you get them, you get confidence. You have to push yourself in order to play at a higher level," he said.
"I know I have to work hard to get the rewards on court. Some players are naturals when it comes to shooting, I'm not ... I have to work at it."
And work hard he has, with the 25-year-old one of the deadliest three-point shooters in the National Basketball League.
Eight rounds into his second season with the Taranaki Mountain Airs, Leasure is the league's leading scorer, averaging 22 points per game and topping the free throw percentage shooting with 93.1 per cent.
"Offensively, I'm feeling confident in my game. I got the idea of shooting 10,000 goals from a guy in the NBA – Gilbert Arenas. He posted something like 100,000 shots over the course of a summer."
Leasure has always played basketball – he's even got his own website for a basketball programme he runs with his younger brother Ben.
"It's called the Jack Leasure Shooting and Skills camp. Last year we ran two camps, one in New York and the other in South Carolina. along with Individual Instruction programs. We will run two more camps when I get back home in July 2011."
Twenty-three-year-old Ben, an actor in New York, played university basketball like Jack, with the pair playing each other on one occasion.
The rest of the family is dad Rick, mum Jeanne and sisters Maggie 28 and Anna 18.
"Dad loves basketball, he played through high school. Mum and Dad came out last year and watched us play two games, against Manawatu and Wellington."
Leasure has support on the sidelines from wife Kelly.
"She came out with me last year and is here again. We love it here. The weather is a lot better than New York. We both enjoy the outdoors and like a town like New Plymouth ... it's quiet, though there's still plenty to do."
The couple are living in Oakura and made the most of the summer weather when they arrived in March, climbing Mt Taranaki.
"That was tough. We didn't realise how hard it was going to be. Three-quarters of the way up, we looked at each other and thought `what have we got ourselves into'. But it was so rewarding when we reached the top. It's amazing up there."
"I was majoring in history (at Coastal Carolina) ... American history from 1800 to 1860. Kelly was majoring in art. We kind of got to know each other during our four years there, graduated in 2008 and got married soon after."
In 2009, Leasure played professionally for the Worthersee Pirates in Klagenfurt, Austria, then had a taste of the New Zealand league with the Mountain Airs last year. He enjoyed it so much, he jumped at the chance of returning for a second season.
"Hopefully I can play year-round. I'd love to play in the Australian league, that's my goal. I want to play professionally as long as I can and I'd definitely look at coming back here next year."
Leasure believes the Taranaki team is heading in the right direction.
"We're building something here. We haven't had great results, but we're going in the right direction. We're starting to play better and if we can play a bit better defence, we'll get some wins. It's about clicking as a team and we're doing that."
Leasure said fellow import Marcus Campbell was great to play with.
"He's a great leader and understands the game. His physical skills are good and he has the size. We've got a good group of players and it's fun playing with them."
Coach David Bublitz described Leasure as the ultimate professional.
"If everyone had Jack's work ethic, it would be an easy team to coach," he said. "He's generally the last one to leave practice, he's always taking extra shots to finish off a session. His work ethic is unbelievable. That's the reason he's so good. He's focused on his shooting to get better and better."