Last year, Derek Raivio made himself known to the country at the Kingwood Classic in Houston as a member of the Portland Elite Legends. This year, don't be surprised if Legends forward Maarty Leunen, (right) does the same.
Even after leading Redmond to the state championship and earning state player of the year honors, the 6-9, 210 pound combo-forward from Redmond (OR) HS didn't earn much recognition outside of the west coast. But as a member of Troy Berry's Portland Elite Legends and Nike Team Oregon AAU teams, Leunen has a chance to do so, by taking his versatile inside-outside game across the country to various tournaments, starting at Kingwood this weekend.
West Coast schools have been well-aware of Leunen from the start, ever since the end of his sophomore year. Thus, in the fall, it was no surprise that Leunen's list was comprised of Cal, Gonzaga, Oregon, Oregon State, and Stanford. According to Marjie Leunen, Leunen's mother, these schools have continued to stay in close contact. Some have already made in-school visits up to Redmond to talk with Maarty and watch him work out.
Ben Braun of Cal made a trip last Thursday, and because of a scheduling snafu, the visit precluded Maarty from accompanying the Team Oregon Nike AAU squad to the Boo Williams Invitational in Virginia (something Leunen was "pretty upset about," according to Mrs. Leunen, but that the visit "went well"). Ernie Kent (Oregon) made a visit on the 9th and spoke at the team's basketball banquet. Mark Few (Gonzaga) and Josh Pastner (Arizona) made visits the week of the 20th and Jay John (Oregon State) - who met with Maarty at the state tournament - is also scheduled to come in.
The secret is slowly getting out, however, as interest has started to seep out beyond the left coast. According to Mrs. Leunen, Duke assistant coach Steve Wojciechowski has been in contact with her and Redmond head coach Kelly Bokn, requesting game tape. The Blue Devils have indicated that they hope to get a more in-depth look at Leunen at Kingwood this weekend. And considering Leunen's great combination of size and skill-level, it would not be surprising if other schools around the country like what they see out him in AAU play - and at Nike Camp in July, where he will be participating.
It's all good for the mobile big man who patterns himself after some former Oregon high school basketball players with similar skills.
"Mike Dunleavy and Luke Jackson," said Leunen. "I like how versatile they are and I just watch how they go inside/outside."
The consensus on Leunen is that he needs to continue building strength, especially in the upper body. According to him, he also needs to fine-tune at least one part of his game.
"I still need work on my ballhandling," he said. "That way I can create my own moves, instead of just coming off of picks where I can catch the ball and then make my move, and having other people create for me."
Leunen - who currently has a 3.3 GPA and a 960 SAT score - may have a list, but indicates that he doesn't really have a leader at this point and that he's wide-open. While his family may prefer him to go to school near home, they have left the decision completely up to him, and according to Leunen, location is not an overriding factor in his choice. But while he's completely open right now in his recruiting, there's one thing that Leunen hopes to do - he'll make up his mind and sign in the fall.
"Hopefully before my senior year I'll have my decision made," he said. "It'll be a nice thing for me, as I can then enjoy playing my senior year."
Be sure to keep an eye out for this rising junior in the Class of 2004 and where he will decide to play his collegiate basketball.
Jed Tai is a senior writer for Hoopville.com.