N.C. State’s Leslie talks softball, Kevin Durant
by Eric Prisbell, USA TODAY Sports
RALEIGH, N.C. — When Mark Gottfried was hired as North Carolina State’s basketball coach in spring of 2011, all he heard were complaints about the attitude of C.J. Leslie, an ultra-talented, enigmatic forward who was coming off an uneven freshman season.
Though he continues to be a work in progress, Leslie, a junior, has blossomed into one of the nation’s best players under Gottfried. He helped lead the Wolfpack to the Sweet 16 last season, and his decision to postpone his NBA career has set the stage for a highly anticipated season for Leslie and N.C. State, whose fans have visions of the team’s, in search of their first Final Four appearance since 1983 in Raleigh.
Sports Weekly continues to look at some of the top college basketball players and teams. USA TODAY Sports’ Eric Prisbell caught up with Leslie, the Atlantic Coast Conference’s preseason player of the year.
My favorite place to play on the road
Duke and (North) Carolina. Playing against those teams. Stadium? I would say Madison Square Garden, a big stage like that. There is so much history there. I enjoy being on that court and reminiscing about the older players that played there. Everybody who is anybody has played there.
Best player I’ve played with at any level
Maybe LeBron (James) at LeBron’s camp. Kevin Durant. We got out there and played at his camps. He was switching off, but we matched up maybe twice. It was good to try to score on the best.
First time I dunked
Seventh grade, I officially dunked. I dunked in a middle school game.
Hobbies other than basketball
I like to play softball. I’m a big fan. That’s like a country thing. We all get together and play softball. Have a little cookout and play softball. I grew up about 20 to 25 minutes away. Rural. Nothing but trees. I play pretty good. Before I played basketball, I played baseball. I played pitcher and first base. I played baseball four or five years, then AAU started. I ended up sticking with basketball. … I was hitting home runs. I hit my first home run when I was … [For more on N.C. State's Leslie talks softball, Kevin Durant, click here.]