March 11, 2008

A big few weeks for Maarty Leunen

March isn't even halfway finished, but it's a month Maarty Leunen might hope never ends. The Pac-10 office in Walnut Creek, CA released its all-league teams and Leunen was named to the second team.

The senior finished the season as Oregon's second leading scorer at just over 15 a game, while leading the Ducks in rebounding, 3-point shooting and minutes played. He was second in assists. Malik Hairston was the only other Duck noted by the league, receiving honorable mention by the conference's coaches.

Leunen also cleaned up at the Oregon men's basketball banquet earlier this month. Collecting three awards; being named the team's most valuable player of the year and winning the Rear Admiral John Dick defensive player of the year award and the Harry Ritchie scholar-athlete award.

The Pac-10 honor for Leunen comes on the heels of an honor that was even more emotional for him. Just last week Leunen was honored in Redmond by having his high school number retired. The ceremony was also attended by Coach Kent. A Redmond Panther will never again wear Leunen's number 11. Leunen said he was excited that his jersey was the first ever retired at Redmond High. He even got a little teary-eyed during the festivities at his old school.

All this on the heels of dropping 32 on the Oregon State Beavers, including 7 of 8 from behind the arc, in his final Civil War game. As a testament to his total came, Leunen followed that performance with two huge rebounding games. Grabbing 9 against Arizona State and 15 against the Wildcats this past Saturday.

Leunen's also among only a handful of seniors able to stay among the elite players as a senior, as Pac-10 teams have begun recruiting talent that's NBA ready at an alarming rate. A quick look at the list of the three Pac 10 All-Conference squads and honorable mentions, reveals only a handful of seniors on the lists. None on the first team or third teams at all, and only Leunen and Washington State's Kyle Weaver on the second team. The Pac-10 is loaded with freshmen and sophomores ready to catapult the conference to even greater things next year most of them decide to return.

Leuenen's all-around game will definitely get him a look by NBA teams. Right now he looks like a late second round pick if he is selected at all. His ability to defend players taller than he is, take smaller guys down onto the block, and step out and shoot the jumper against big men, makes him a unique prospect.

On the downside, he doesn't have the foot speed of some guys his size, or the bulk of others at his height. He's a classic 'tweener' by NBA standards. Some guys like him make it and find their niche in the league, others wind up playing professionally in Europe or elsewhere.

Regardless of what happens down the road, March has been a month to remember for Leunen.

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