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.”