Wildens Leveque has no feel for how his South Carolina basketball career will end, but the near-future Gamecock has already envisioned how it will begin.
“The first practice,” Leveque said, “I’m accepting the fact that I’m going to get my butt kicked by guys who have been working, who have been going through college workouts for years.”
USC is seeking productive big men in 2019-20 after the departure of two-time All-SEC forward Chris Silva. The 6-foot-10, 225-pound Leveque could help fill that void. He’s a developing offensive player who prides himself on blocks and rebounds.
Just don’t expect him to come out and guarantee greatness.
“He’s as humble a kid as I’ve ever been around at this level,” said Cory McClure, Leveque’s coach at Gould Academy in Bethel, Maine.
Leveque, a three-star prospect, committed to the Gamecocks in October and signed in November. He then went on to average 16 points, 13 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game as a Gould senior. He’s the lone center in Carolina’s 2019 class, and perhaps the most intriguing of the four-man group when it comes to immediate impact.
Gone is Silva, who accounted for 21 percent of USC’s rebounds, 44 percent of its blocks and 23 percent of its 2-point field goals last season. He was Frank Martin’s rock in the post, a centerpiece to the Gamecocks’ offensive and defensive systems. In Silva’s absence, South Carolina is likely to be more guard-oriented and run things through A.J. Lawson, should he return to school after testing the NBA waters.
But Martin, a firm believer in winning at the rim, will always value a big man. Next year he’s got senior Maik Kotsar and Leveque.
“They’re just really excited,” Leveque said of the USC staff. “They know I can block shots really well. That’s a great thing to start off with. They feel like I can run the floor, grab rebounds, finish around the rim, do all the basic big man stuff, obviously. And they feel I can really extend my game.
“Frank said he won’t be surprised if I start to blow up at South Carolina, so I’m looking forward to that.”
Leveque is originally from the Boston suburb of Brockton. It’s on a drive back there recently when McClure learned how just how eager Leveque is to begin his Gamecock career.
McClure, a former assistant coach at the University of New Hampshire, had a curious shotgun rider.
“We just had a lot of time in the car,” McClure said. “And the questions he’s asking me ... ‘What are summer workouts going to be like? What’s it like for a freshman? What did you think they’re gonna expect of me?’
“We just had a lot of good conversation. He’s keenly aware of that. He’s thinking about the opportunity that’s in front of him.”
Kotsar, though, isn’t looked at as competition in Leveque’s eyes. The rookie views the three-year starter as a potential mentor.
“Honestly, I’m really excited for him to show me how it is down there,” Leveque said. “Almost, like a mentor type of thing. He’s been through it all, he’s done everything, he knows Frank Martin pretty well now. So I feel that I’m just ready for him just to show me like how it is and what it’s all about down there. I’m just excited to play with him.”
Leveque’s selflessness will translate well to Carolina, McClure said.
“He’s going to surrender to Frank and do exactly what Frank and that staff want him to do,” McClure said. “He’s OK with that. He’s not a five-man wanting to be a three-man. He’ll actually tell ya, ‘I’m OK. I want to be a true big man.’ That’s a thing for him.”