Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Leon Giving Gators Boost after Joining Starting Lineup; No Matter How Shot Looks, Forward Has Been on Target for UF

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Leon Giving Gators Boost after Joining Starting Lineup; No Matter How Shot Looks, Forward Has Been on Target for UF

Article excerpt

Byline: Garry Smits

Justin Leon's shot isn't classic. Results are all that matter.

University of Florida coach Mike White long ago gave up caring about the aesthetics of how the 6-foot-8 junior forward executes the act of putting the ball in the basket from the outside. A .600 overall shooting percentage and .524 from beyond the 3-point arc as a starter are proof that Leon's mechanics don't have to be pretty.

"When I first got here , coach White tried to adjust it," Leon said earlier this week before a Gators practice. "It just wasn't working for me. One day he said, aeI don't care how you shoot it ... just make it.'"

Leon's set shot and low release look archaic but since he was inserted into the starting lineup for the Gators (12-6, 4-2) in the SEC opener against Georgia on Jan. 2, he has averaged 10.0 points per game entering Saturday's home contest against Auburn (9-8, 3-3) at 8 p.m.

During one three-game stretch, against Tennessee, LSU and Texas A&M, Leon made 17 of 22 shots and seven of 10 from 3-point range.

"I know about the flat-footed part," he said. "I know my release is pretty low. One time, in JUCO, I got on a hot streak and made five 3s in a row. On one, I don't think I even jumped."

White said Leon's work ethic and doggedness during practices and games are his strongest points, making it easy to overlook any fundamental flaws in his shooting motion.

"Any time a 6-8 kid is as competitive as him, and on a daily basis, it gives an opportunity to compete at this level," White said. "He's not the most talented guy in the program, but arguably, he's the toughest and most competitive."

Leon first got on White's radar when he was an all-state player at Conway (Ark.) High School and White was coaching Louisiana Tech. White didn't offer Leon but kept track of him while he was starring at Shawnee (Ill.) Junior College.

A turning point for Leon was when he participated in the Mullen Showcase, a series of camps and tournaments for junior college players to get exposure to NCAA coaches. …

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