Anthony Leal says he’s been ‘playing a lot of point guard’ this offseason

Anthony Leal says he’s been ‘playing a lot of point guard’ this offseason

Anthony Leal’s playing time has been sporadic in his two seasons at Indiana. Though his strongest asset was his shot-making ability when he first arrived for the program in 2019, it’s the other, developing faces of the junior guard’s skillset that have kept him on the bench more often than not.

But this offseason, Leal is hoping to take the next step forward in his evolution as a player, beginning with an increased emphasis on his ball-handling skills.

“Mostly just being able to handle the ball, more comfortable with the ball, creating stuff on my own,” Leal said about his primary focus this summer on CrimsonCast, a popular Indiana-centered podcast.

The Hoosiers seem to be on board with Leal’s goals, too.

With IU’s summer workouts beginning about two weeks ago, so far, the 6-foot-5 Bloomington native has been given seemingly every opportunity to showcase his playmaking skills.

While some of that increased opportunity is out of sheer necessity due to injuries within the team — junior guard Trey Galloway underwent groin surgery last week — Leal isn’t taking his heightened role for granted.

“As we’ve gone through practice, I’ve been playing a lot of point guard right now,” Leal said, “because some guys aren’t — like, obviously Trey’s out right now — so I’ve been playing point guard, and I think it’s helped me a lot with my ball-handling and stuff like that.”

Not only is Leal getting a chance to run the offense this summer, he’s also doing so as the veteran-most player on his scrimmage team, helping to mentor freshmen guards Jalen Hood-Scifino and CJ Gunnand freshmen forwards Malik Reneau and Caleb Banks.

“When we scrimmage, my team is me and the freshmen,” Leal said. So, it’s actually such a blessing because it’s making me so much better as a leader and as a competitor, because I gotta get them up to speed so we’re able to compete with the guys.”

If Leal can prove that his offseason development can translate to the season, coupled with more consistent shooting, then there’s certainly a case to be made for an expanded role in head coach Mike Woodson’s rotation.

However, for a program that’s been in search of reliable perimeter shooting in recent seasons, Leal still hasn’t been able to find consistent playing time. Sure, he’s shooting a pedestrian 30.8 percent from 3-point range for his IU career, but the sample size is small (52 career attempts). In fact, his last season appeared in only 17 of IU’s 35 games, which are two fewer appearances than his freshman season in 2020 under former head coach Archie Miller.

Whether it’s due to Leal’s limited skillset, or simply too much talent and not enough minutes to go around, the former Indiana Mr. Basketball hasn’t yet carved out a niche, but with improved playmaking ability, that could change in his third year.

As a whole, Leal’s work ethic, attitude and loyalty have never come into question — it’s what has endeared him to Indiana’s fanbase so quickly. And if he’s able to carve out a more defined role for the Hoosiers next season, Leal may just blossom into the role-player that many thought he could be when he originally committed to his hometown school.

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