Brother, Can You Spare A Rebound?
By Keith Mills
Walt Leslie Jr. grew up down the street from one of the most famous basketball courts in the city -- the Cloverdale Playground at McCullogh St. and Druid Hill Ave. in West Baltimore. Walt is the son of Walter Lee Leslie, Sr., who along with Boysie Hux, James Oscar Davis, William Harris, Leonard Covington, Dennis Talbot, Ronnie and Teddy Epps, John Chase, 'Big' Paul Edwards, Dr. Warren Hammond and Wendell and Theordore Hicks, gathered to form a summer league back in 1958 that is still going strong today.
Donald Payne, who helped start the league with Willard Wright, Hammond and Lorenzo "Mike" Plater, was the playground's first commissioner. Plater passed away on April 6 and Payne died on May 29. The league, now called the Cloverdale AC/BBA program, is celebrating its 51st birthday and plays on the Harrison Sykes Brown Playground.
Leslie Jr. and his two brothers, Al and Donald, are also the subjects of an interesting trivia question. There have been a ton of brother combinations that have played high school and amateur basketball in the Baltimore area and have gone on to outstanding college careers: Steve and DeWayne Wallace and Kurk and Eric Lee (Dunbar), Terry and Perry Dozier (Hammond High and Dunbar), Darryle and Paul Edwards (Calvert Hall), Jake and Josh Davalli (Cardinal Gibbons), Scott and Wayne Spurrier (Andover), Leroy and Kurt Keller (Archbishop Curley), and Perry and Barry Young (Mt. Hebron).
There have only been a handful of multiple brother combinations: Kevin, Ernie, Brian and Gary Graham (Lake Clifton and Dunbar); Kenny, Frank, Keith and Karl James (Mount St. Joseph, Edmondson and Dunbar); and Walt, Al and Donald Leslie.
Walt Leslie was a ferocious rebounder and defender at Northwestern High School, where he played for coach George Leishure. One year after Walt graduated from Northwestern, the Wildcats, led by Ran Snell and Ray Sydnor, lost to Lake Clifton (featuring Ernie and Kevin Graham, Arnold "Clyde" Gaines, Robert Brown, Rodney "Pop" Wright and Lance Hill) in the MSA A Conference championship at Mervo.
Leslie went on to play at Essex Community College for two years and then the University of Baltimore, where he played for coach Frank Szymanski.
In the late 1970s the University of Baltimore changed from a four-year school to an upper-level, two-year school. Leslie was on the team that made the transition.
"All we had were junior college transfers, and it was really tough," said Walt Leslie Jr. "It was a long year. We played everywhere, against some great teams. But we got to see the country."
Leslie was joined on the UB team by Arundel's Mike Decker, Northeast's John Spinnenweber and Brooklyn Park's Tim McGahgan, who also transferred to Baltimore from Anne Arundel Community College.
While Walt Leslie was finishing up his two-year career with the Bees, his brothers Al and Donald were making their owns names at McDonogh and Frederick Douglass High Schools. Al Leslie, Gary Benninghoff and Jim Meil, the longtime men's assistant coach at Towson, helped make McDonogh one of the premier teams in the MSA B Conference while Donald "Duck" Leslie was one of the area's best guards in the late '70s.
Al graduated from McDonogh in 1980 and went on to a magnificent career at Bucknell University, where he was a four-year starter and winner of the prestigious Christy Mathewson Award. He still holds the school's all-time scoring record with 1,973 points. He was named All-American in 1991 and is a member of the Bucknell Hall of Fame.
Donald Leslie arrived at Towson in the fall of 1979 and is the 20th all-time leading scorer in school history with 1,031 points. He was a three-year starter for coach Vince Angotti and along with Edmondson's Mark Cooley helped the Tigers make the transition from Division II to Division I.
"We played a lot of basketball growing up," said Walt Leslie. "We were always at Cloverdale. That's where we learned how to play. Our father grew up there and he used to take us up to play all the time."
There's one other Leslie who has gone on to some rather big things in basketball -- Lisa Leslie, the four-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time WNBA MVP. She is the stepsister to Walt, Al and Donald.
"We have the same father," said Walt. "When Lisa was young, her mom moved her to L.A. and that's where she grew up. We spent some time together when we were younger. Not too much now. She wanted to carve out her own life."
Posted September 23, 2009