A Veteran’s Day To Remember
By Meyers Leonard, Portland Trail Blazers
I had a very meaningful Veteran’s Day this year for a couple of different reasons. My brother Bailey, who is a U.S. Marine, came to our game last Monday, which was Blazers Military Appreciation Night.
He is no longer on active duty, but was in the Marines for four years and had two tours in Afghanistan. Ever since my brother joined the military, Veteran’s Day has become more meaningful to me. A lot of times it goes unnoticed, but after being directly affected with Bailey being overseas twice, I understand the meaning behind it much more. We were always close – we’re only two years apart – but that bond became even stronger over the past few years.
About a month ago, I told him I wanted him to come out to a game. He’s living back in Illinois and hadn’t seen me play in the NBA yet. Since it was Military Appreciation Night, I knew it would have more meaning. So he sat in the family section and got to watch me play for the first time in the NBA. The last time he saw me play was when he surprised me at my last college game. I can’t remember exactly when that was, but I know it was against Michigan. At the time, he had just returned from Afghanistan and was still enlisted.
The Blazers did a very nice job putting everything together. They interviewed me about what it was like having him here, and then interviewed both of us together. Bailey was interviewed by himself during the game; I think it was on the Jumbotron. The Oregon Army National Guard presented him a flag at halftime, and he was the honorary person of the night. Also, a man who makes coins for military veterans made a special one for him. It got really loud when they introduced Bailey to the fans; and it was very humbling for me to see how people respect what he did and see the bond we have. It was awesome to have him here for that experience. I know he’ll be in Indianapolis to watch me play again in December. And hopefully he’ll make it to Chicago, too.
Off To A Great Start
I’m really happy with where I’m at this point in my rookie year. I’m trying hard to be a good guy, on and off the court. On the court, I’m really starting to get a good feel and flow of the game. We’ve had some good wins, and I’ve been getting good minutes. It feels good to get on that court and helps my confidence a lot. For me, it’s not as much about points, but about blocked shots, rebounds, defense. Although, if I can finish around the rim, I most likely will do it. I had a dunk in transition on Friday night, which got the crowd going. I am trying to play as hard as I can and giving it my all, and I think the fans respect the way I play. I want people to think of me as a basketball player and a person – it’s important to do both well.
Words of Wisdom
Coach Stotts tells me to keep playing hard and learning. He says my rookie year is going to have ups and downs, which I’ve already experienced. Some nights I’m not as comfortable out there, and other nights I’m in the groove.
My mentors right now are really a combo of everyone. Assistant coach Kim Hughes is the big man coach, and we’ve become close. LaMarcus Aldridge has done a great job helping me out. Veterans Jared Jeffries, Ronnie Price, Aleksandar Pavlovic reach out to me; they tell me to keep working hard and use my talent to my full advantage.
Last time I blogged, I mentioned that I started piano lessons. It’s been going well, and I actually had a lesson last week. My teacher tells me that my learning process is a lot quicker than most. Sometimes it’s hard to find time to practice, but she lent me a keyboard to practice on, so I’m making progress.
Right now I’m learning to play “Open The Eyes Of My Heart” and still working on the theme song from “The Office.” Other than that, it’s just some tick tock songs that help you learn the keys.
Follow me on twitter or Instagram @meyersleonard11
Meyers Leonard is a 7-foot-1 center from the University of Illinois. He was selected by the Trail Blazers with the 11th pick of the 2012 NBA Draft.
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