Author Archives: Nicholas Moreano

Justin Leszynski’s Hard Work Pays Off with MIT Commitment

Glenbrook South's Justin Leszynski chooses MIT basketball

Before heading into his senior season at Glenbrook South, Justin Leszynski knew exactly what he wanted to improve in his game. 

Over the last summer and winter, the 6-5, 210-pound big man made it his primary focus to become quicker and to improve his perimeter defense. 

“I think I have done a pretty good job at that, but there is still room to grow,” Leszynski said. 

As a multi-sport athlete, also playing center striker for the Titans soccer team, Leszynski credits the skills and movements he learned on the soccer field for helping him on the basketball court. 

“He has improved physically so much from last season,” Glenbrook South coach Phil Ralston said. “I think when you have been a part of a program, no matter what your role is, but when you have been a part of a program that had this much success as our team did last year, it has a sense for those younger kids to translate to wanting to uphold that level of play.”

Last year, Leszynski was one of those younger players. As a junior, Leszynski learned the importance of being “ready to step in when the other team tries to take away those other options” while he played alongside Dom Martinelli — a Northwestern freshman and Glenbrook South’s all-time scorer.

That mindset has carried over to this season and has helped the Titans remain undefeated through their first nine games.  

With junior forward Nick Martinelli — Dom Martinelli’s brother — and junior point guard Cooper Noard as the primary scorers, Leszynski’s role is to complement the duo. He does so with a perfectly-timed three-pointer or a rebound under the basket leading to a fast-break opportunity. 

All of Leszynski’s hard work — on the court and in the classroom — finally paid off when he found out he had been accepted into MIT. 

“The minute we opened the letter and there’s the animated confetti on the screen it really just made my year and it was one of the happiest moments in my life,” Leszynski said. “It was a lot of stress waiting to hear back. I know not everyone gets their first choice with getting into their (preferred) schools. … So it was just a tremendous moment of happiness to finally be able to announce where I’m going to be able to end up and play my next four years and continue playing the sport I love, which is basketball.”

Leszynski’s father, Ed, and mother, Amy Jo, were ecstatic when they heard the news. For Ed Leszynski, he has appreciated just being able to watch his son play his senior season. 

“He has always wanted to really play with his friends, and he has known these guys since kindergarten, second grade,” Ed said. “The other two seniors that start, they have been on the same team since second grade. Either soccer, baseball or basketball, so to finish on that, you can’t write a better script to finish your senior year with your best friends playing a team sport.”

For Justin, he is still finishing the final script for his last season at Glenbrook South. As of now, the Titans have 10 games remaining on their schedule, including two matchups against Evanston — the team that eliminated Glenbrook South in the Class 4A Elk Grove semifinals last year and that split the CSL South title with the Titans.

Regardless of what happens with the rest of the season, Ralston is proud of what his senior big man has been able to accomplish in his high school career.

“We’ve seen so much growth from Justin,” Ralston said. “We always knew he was the type of kid that was going to get into a school like MIT. Very high IQ, very cerebral kid. Getting into a great school like that was not the surprise. How far he has come in 16 months, as a basketball player, if someone would have told me that in November of 2019, I would say that might be a stretch for him. I don’t think it is now. It’s because he, once again, put in that unrequired work in the offseason, and I think it’s playing dividends for him now.”

Glenbrook South’s swarming defense too much for Highland Park

From Glenbrook South’s starting five to the end of the bench, the Titans played relentless defense all game against visiting Highland Park. 

When a lane potentially looked open, senior big man Justin Leszynski was there to close it. When Highland Park set a screen, senior small forward Matthew Rosenberger was there to tell his teammate to switch. When a pass went into the middle of the defense, junior forward Spencer Brown was there to tip it. 

“I really try to compartmentalize our practices to work on things we are going to see in the games,” Glenbrook South coach Phil Ralston said. “We probably don’t spend longer than 15-to-20 minutes working on our shell defense, but during that shell, we expect all of our kids to be engaged and how we expect them to defend.”

For Glenbrook South, how the players practice manifests itself in the games. The Titans defeated the Giants, 62-29, staying undefeated and improving to 8-0 on the season. 

To compliment the Titans’ defense, Nick Martinelli added a team-high 21 points, scoring 10 of those points in the second quarter. Cooper Noard also had a 10-point quarter in the third, finishing with 15. 

Noard started his night 0-for-4 from three-point range in the first half but made all three of his attempts in the third quarter. 

Ralston wasn’t worried about his star point guard missing his shots in the first half. 

“None of them are bad looks, they just didn’t fall,” Ralston said. “He’s such a good shooter. Once he hits one, he’s going to hit two, he’s going to hit three, he might hit four. You got to watch out.”

Highland Park, on the other hand, didn’t have a bounce-back performance at any point throughout the night in the Titan Dome. A majority of the Giants’ offense was spent passing the ball outside of the 3-point line from one side of the court to the other, searching for answers. 

Billy Rudman led the Giants with 10 points, and Ben Shamberg scored six points. 

The 62 points scored in tonight’s game was the fifth time this season the Titans have eclipsed the 60-point mark. 

Glenbrook South has had plenty of success on that side of the ball, but Leszynski — who scored seven points — knows it all starts with the defense. 

“I like to think that the other team can’t beat you if they can’t score more points than you,” Leszynski said. “I like to embrace doing whatever I’m needed to do on defense … A lot of our offense comes from defense. I know when we are playing well defensively we are one of the best teams in the state.”

Glenbrook South rains threes in 64-46 victory over Maine South

The roughly 40 fans in attendance at Glenbrook South’s game against Maine South at the Titan Dome only saw one layup from the home team in the first quarter.

What they also witnessed was Glenbrook South making five three-pointers in the first eight minutes of play. 

The Titans were just getting started.

Glenbrook South went on to make 12 total triples in a 64-46 victory over Maine South, improving its record to 6-0 on the season. On Friday night, the Titans made eight 3-pointers in a 55-33 win. 

Glenbrook South junior Nick Martinelli credited the team’s defense for the success they have had on offense. 

“Each person just doing their job, being on the help side and guarding their own man — that’s all we basically do in practice,” Martinelli said. “We’ve had long, boring practices just working on defense and being in the right spot. In the game it works and it helps and it makes the game a lot more fun.” 

Glenbrook South coach Phil Ralston said that the practices may be “monotonous” at times, but Ralston likes to put his players in game-like situations that will create “game-ready shooters” instead of “drive-way shooters.” 

One of those “game-ready shooters” is junior guard Cooper Noard, who had 10 total triples in home-away series with the Hawks.

“Anytime you got a really good point guard, you got a shot at being really good as a team,” Ralston said. “When you got a point guard that can also score, that opens up your game to a completely new level. Teams are focused, five guys on him. A lot of our actions are trying to free him up for open looks. But the other aspect of it is that our offense is also designed to get other people in positions where they are going to get open looks too. The more teams have to focus on some other guys it frees up Cooper even more.”

Martinelli is one of the players that benefits from the attraction Cooper creates. Martinelli and Noard tied for a team-high 18 points.  

Glenbrook South outscored Maine South 21-10 in the third quarter to give the Titans a 62-31 lead heading into the final frame, essentially putting the game out of reach. Ralston put in his bench with about 5:40 left in the game, and the backups played a majority of the fourth quarter.  

Maine South, now 4-2 overall, had a brief lead in the game, when the Hawks were leading 9-6 with 4:46 left in the first quarter. Maine South coach Tony Lavorato knew this second game against Glenbrook South would be a challenge, especially since starter Ryan Leyden was injured in the first quarter of Friday’s game. 

“We don’t get a chance to practice with the kids who will be replacing him, so we are kind of doing things on the fly and through walk-throughs,” Lavorato said. “Were we leg weary? I don’t know, but the bottom line is they also played four games. They did a much better job than we did finishing the week strong. We are going to learn and get better and get stronger. That’s kind of what it’s about.” 

Ralston anticipated Maine South would make some adjustments from the previous matchup, so Glenbrook South countered with their own changes, and also knocked down shots from long range.

“We tweaked some aspects of our offense that we expected them to do against us, and they worked,” Ralston said. “Then we had all the different kids that hit threes … that opens things up.”

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