PORTLAND, Ore. – It’s been several years since expectations were this high for the Trail Blazers heading into a season and rookie Meyers Leonard is a big reason … literally.
Big men have been somewhat cursed in Portland in recent years and that’s something Leonard is acutely aware of, although not necessarily worried about.
Portland made the 7’1” center from Illinois the 11th overall pick in this summer’s NBA Draft, but Leonard’s road to the NBA hasn’t been easy.
Despite plenty of wins on the court, the 20-year-old has already faced his share of loss; his father died when Leonard was just six years old.
Since then, he’s looked up to his older brother Bailey, who is just shy of two years older.
In 2008, Bailey joined the Marine Corps and was shipped off to Afghanistan. But in January, Bailey surprised his younger brother by showing up before a game during his last season playing for the University of Illinois.
Leonard recently tweeted a video of the emotional reunion, where we see the Blazers’ 250 pound center look more like a little boy again as he breaks down in tears hugging his “big” brother.
“I had no idea he was coming,” Leonard recently told KATU.
Leonard has a big heart to match his stature. He credits his family values for helping to carry him far in his young career.
“For me, I think being a good person helps you in so many ways that people don’t even understand,” he said. “You know, if you become stressed with stuff on the court, if you have things that you can lean on off the court, or you have good relationships established it will go a long way for you.”
That kind of maturity is a reason why the Blazers are confident this big man with a big heart can shoulder the hefty expectations that lay ahead in Rip City.
Meyers’ first test comes Wednesday night as the Blazers play the Lakers in the first preseason game of the year.