May 12, 2008

Is Columbia a pipeline to UGA?

One of two late signing period additions to UGA's 2008 class was high flying wing Travis Leslie of Columbia High School. This is the second Columbia star to ink with the Dawgs in as many years. We caught up with Eagles Head Coach Phil McCrary to get his thoughts on Leslie and him sending his players to Athens.

With Jeremy Price signing with Georgia last year and now with Leslie, that is back to back signees headed to Athens. Is there a pipeline being set up, or is it just coincidence?,p>

"I would not so much say it's a pipeline so much that we are fortunate to have kids with the ability to go off and play at a high major school," said Coach McCrary.

"Travis actually made a commitment as a sophomore that that was a place he wanted to go to. And I am just fortunate to have the honor to coach him. Georgia stuck with him and the commitment he made as a sophomore and I am happy they made that choice."

Leslie spoke highly of the coaches in Athens and has said that played a part in his decision to play for the Dawgs. Which coaches were recruiting Leslie at Columbia?

"Mostly Mike Jones recruited him here. He did a good job making sure he stayed committed because it really boiled down at the end to UGA, Clemson and Georgia Tech. Then Tech bailed out and when he visited UGA unofficially and liked what he saw there and made the final commitment that day."

The 6-foot-4 Leslie is known for his leaping ability and world class athleticism. But Coach McCrary knows that there is more to his game than just big ups.

"It is going to be a big shock to a lot of people that Travis can really shoot the basketball," added the head coach of Columbia. "He was the kind of kid that did not have to shoot because he could just get to the basketball by driving."

"He does have a nice outside shot, and once he gets into the University of Georgia, and they define the things that he can do, they are going to get more out of him than he already gives them."

The Columbia Eagles went to three finals games during Leslie's tenure, and came away with two state championships. Leslie was a major reason for Columbia's rise and it had to be fun coaching such a talent.

"It was truly exciting because you never knew what Travis was actually going to do with the ball once he was in the air with it. And being able to do the things he could do on the court was a plus for us because you could not defend it. It allowed our other weapons to flourish because other team's players were hesitant to give up the big play to Leslie."

One of the things Felton has had to deal with is ensuring his players have a high level of character and he has gone great lengths to ensure it. The trend looks to continue with the young star from Decatur.

"Travis is, to me, like a son. Anything I would ask him to do he would not hesitate to do so. He is a kid of high character, and what I mean by character is doing the right thing when no one is looking at you."


He (Travis Leslie) is the most athletic player I have coached up to this point.

- Phil McCrary -
Columbia Head Coach

The wing player has the potential to be an impact player for the Bulldogs, but he was definitely one of the best Columbia has ever seen. His dunking displays are known throughout the state and will be remembered long after he finishes college.

"He is the most athletic player I have coached up to this point," McCrary said with confidence. "His ability gives him unlimited potential, and I just want to see him develop into a complete basketball player. If he ever allowed his aggression to come out, the sky is truly the limit for that young man."

While UGA will return as SEC champions, Leslie will arrive as a two time state champion. He will bring his athleticism and potential to a team that loses its star in Sundiata Gaines. Look for him to raise the roof at Stegman Colesium, and Dawg fans should enjoy him just as Coach McCrary has the past four years.

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