Anthony Leal accomplished just about everything an Indiana high school basketball player could imagine.
He broke the scoring record at Bloomington South, won three sectional titles, led his team to the No. 1 ranking with a 29-0 record and won the IndyStar Mr. Basketball Award. The only thing preventing Leal from adding a state title may have been the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the tournament to be canceled in mid-March.
Now, seven months later and just a few miles from home, the 6-foot-5 shooting guard is embarking on the next chapter in his journey with his hometown Hoosiers.
“I’m starting to get more and more used to it as we go along," Leal said Tuesday during Indiana's virtual media day. “Really excited for the games coming up just to play with this jersey on."
Leal realizes it may take time for him to make the impact he did in high school.
He's trying to learn the nuances of coach Archie Miller's offense, figuring out where exactly he fits in on defense and what role he'll play in a crowded, talented backcourt.
But he also adds a facet the Hoosiers have lacked over Miller's first three seasons — a big, consistent perimeter shooter. Here, he'll be working with veteran guards Rob Phinisee, Aljami Durham and Armaan Franklin and fellow freshmen Khristian Lander and Trey Galloway.
Leal, Galloway and Lander each earned all-state selections and have made strong first impressions on campus.
“Trey is an all-around type of guy who can drive, shoot and is really athletic," Franklin said. “Anthony is a knockdown shooter, big-body guard and can create when he needs to. Khristian is explosive, quick, can shoot it, can create for others. He's gonna be a really good player."
Leal did it all in high school, averaging 18.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists as a senior, becoming the school's first Mr. Basketball winner since Jordan Hulls in 2009. Hulls, a shooting guard, also signed with the Hoosiers and scored more than 1,000 points while helping revive an Indiana program that was gutted following Kelvin Sampson's text messaging scandal.
But unlike Hulls, Leal's size, coupled with so much depth in the backcourt, gives Miller far more options than he's had in the past.
“I think, No. 1, we'll play more perimeter-oriented guys," Miller said. “The ball-handling, the passing, the I.Q. to play the game will hopefully lead to that. We're hoping some of the freshmen coming in can play a part in the backcourt."
The goal, of course, is to space the floor for 6-9 forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, a third-team, All-Big Ten selection who led Indiana in scoring with 13.5 points last season while breaking the school's freshman record with 270 rebounds. He decided not to declare for the NBA draft this season after the COVID-19 pandemic and has All-American aspirations this year.
Jackson-Davis may have been even more effective had the Hoosiers shot better than 32.6% from 3-point range, allowing defenses to clog the middle.
That could be much more difficult this year with players such as Leal and Lander in the mix as well as Jackson-Davis, Indiana's 2019 Mr. Basketball Award winner. He has worked on getting stronger with his right hand and from mid-range.
“I've been using it (right hand) a lot more in practice, just trying to get those reps up," he said. “Obviously, I can shoot the ball better, especially on that pick and pop from mid-range. If a guy steps up, being able to get the ball to Joey or Rob or someone in the corner, I want to be able to do that, too."
Leal is expected to become part of the solution, too.
And he can't wait to get started, even if Assembly Hall is empty.
“I wouldn’t have imagined it," Leal said. “But at the same time, it’s still the same opportunity and the same goal, so I’m going to embrace it."