Princeton picked up a commitment from 6'6"+ small forward Mike LeBlanc last month. Earlier this week I was able to finally catch up with LeBlanc's high school coach Pete Hutchins to talk about the second member of the Tigers' 2014 recruiting class.
LeBlanc - who will play his second season at New Hampton School in 2013-14 after arriving from Dover - reportedly decided on Princeton over offers from Rice, Yale, Brown, New Hampshire and Binghamton.
Exclusive quotes and analysis plus links to player evaluations, photographs and videos featuring LeBlanc can all be found after the jump.
It appears that the current Princeton staff has a proclivity for versatile wings and LeBlanc too fits this mold. While most write-ups on LeBlanc focus on his shooting, Hutchins feels there is a lot more to LeBlanc's game.
"His jump shot is aesthetically pleasing and I think as he continues to develop confidence and shoot more and more and more – which shooters need to do - he’ll become an even better shooter," Hutchins said. "He can put the ball on the floor, he can drive it, he’s a versatile defender, he led our team in charges last year. He has some grit to him and some toughness. I think the Princeton staff sees him as a guy who is going to bring a lot more to their program than just being a perimeter shot-maker."
Hutchins also views LeBlanc as both bigger and stronger than those who have observed just a fraction of his games.
"He’s very sturdy. He’s college-ready physically, no question," Hutchins shared. "He might be 6'7", he’s definitely 6'6". He’s been with us a full year now and he’s grown at least an inch."
Playing in the NEPSAC AAA, one of the top prep conferences in the nation, the New Hampton Huskies went 17-12 a season ago with LeBlanc a constant contributor to a stacked lineup.
"He started every game as a junior on a team where we sent a top ten kid to Indiana and our starting point guard went to Georgia Tech. We have a kid going to play for Sydney [Johnson at Fairfield] named Lincoln Davis. [Mike] started every game at the '3' and easily averaged at least eight points and five rebounds. I would expect him to play a similar role [this season] but I would expect his production to go up significantly," Hutchins asserted.
"This is a big year for him," Hutchins continued. "The first year playing in this league is always an adjustment. I love watching kids as they mature as basketball players and they start to see the game differently and the game slows down. I can see him becoming a cerebral player, he’s certainly on his way to becoming that."
"We’ve only played a couple days up here [since the current school year began] but he’s been one of our best players," added Hutchins, who is in his seventh season coaching New Hampton. "That's a testament to his toughness and how hard he plays. He’s a year older than a lot of the guys and he’s been through this."
LeBlanc attended Princeton's Elite Camp each of the past two summers. Hutchins praised the Princeton staff and the attention they gave LeBlanc.
"They did a great job recruiting him," Hutchins said. "He loved the camp last year. Princeton was aware that Mike felt like that would be a good fit. He came back in July [of 2013]. The staff spent a lot of time following him, and have seen him in a lot of different settings."
One of LeBlanc's current teammates - power forward Mike Auger - will go from friend to foe in a year's time as he committed to Penn shortly after LeBlanc pledged Princeton.
New Hampton is the same program that former Tiger Patrick Saunders attended prior to college and also where current Princeton lacrosse player Anna Menke matriculated.
"When you talk about kids who are going to Princeton, they’re all good students. Hopefully this is an obvious thing but he’s an incredibly motivated kid on and off the floor, very driven to do well in both areas, just an incredibly hard worker across the board," Hutchins stated. "I’m very confident that people will appreciate how hard Mike plays and how he represents Princeton."
LeBlanc's Summer 2013 highlights.
LeBlanc gives a testimonial for New Hampton's IB program. The combinations of top-flight academics and athletics is what drew LeBlanc to this particular prep school and then to Princeton.
Said Hutchins of LeBlanc's decision to leave Dover - where he averaged 19 points per game - for New Hampton: "He was somebody that through his AAU program and being from New Hampshire, we identified as someone who was ultimately going to go to boarding school. He had a number of different options but was really drawn to the smaller setting that is New Hampton and the opportunity to get the combination of both the academic piece – this is a full International Baccalaureate school – as well as play in what we all think of here as the best high school basketball league in the country."
Some recent dunks.
NERR wrote after July's All-Academic Camp: "Mike Leblanc – As usual, he shot it very well which, at his height, is what makes him the intriguing prospect he is. However, while most know him as just a great shooter, his versatility and ability to do a number of different things is underrated. He rebounded the ball in high volume and has the ability to defend a number of different positions with his length and athleticism."
Said Hoopville about a year ago: "On the wing, Mike Leblanc (6’6″ Jr. SF, Dover (NH)) had a nice workout on Monday as he was in a lot of plays. His body is more mature and he’s not a bad athlete, and there’s no question about his effort. He shot the ball well starting with an early drill before the scrimmages, and he kept that up, showing some deep range on his shot. He will at least be a solid glue guy for this team."
Hawk Hill Hardwood was impressed by LeBlanc, writing after the Hoop Group Summer Classic East: "Michael LeBlanc: In an afternoon tilt between the RI Hawks and New Heights, LeBlanc was arguably the most valuable player on either team. A 6'6 wing from New Hampton Prep, LeBlanc paced the RI Hawks with 19 points in the win. LeBlanc knocked down a trio of threes, converted a steal into an easy bucket, and scored on an aggressive drive from the wing. He also hit a pretty fifteen-foot turnaround jumper. Following the game, LeBlanc updated Hawk Hill Hardwood on his recruitment. The skilled wing listed offers from “Brown, Binghamton, and New Hampshire.” In addition, he claimed “strong interest from Princeton, Bucknell, Dartmouth, Yale, Albany, San Francisco, Lehigh, Lafayette, and Marist.” If Saturday’s performance was any indication, Mike LeBlanc has the look of a player that will become a priority recruit at the Patriot and Ivy level."
Based on his Dover days, HoopRootz said: "Long athletic wing player with a gorgeous shooting stroke who looks to slash to the basket and finish at the rim. He gets out and fills the lane on the break. Goes to the glass hard on both ends. Solid wing-defender, knows how to use his length to his advantage. Plays all out and is highly coach-able. Between the summer and the hoops season, Leblanc will work to improve his handle to the point where he can play in the backcourt. As he fills out and gets stronger and is able to play through more contact, Leblanc may very well develop into a scholarship basketball player."
HoopRootz also rated LeBlanc 53rd on their New England Class of 2013.
Over two years ago Mass & NH High School Basketball Report ranked LeBlanc as the fourth-best player in his class in New Hampshire.
LeBlanc earned honorable mention NHBCO All-State status in 2011-12.
Continuing to look backwards a spell, New Hampshire Notebook caught LeBlanc at the invitation-only Elite 75 - Frosh/Soph Edition in 2011 and said: "LeBlanc competed well against some of the region's top players, showing a solid inside-outside game. He showed good agility when defending the 2-on-1 break and ran the floor well for a big man. LeBlanc effectively lead the break and hit the open man. He was also able to catch and finish in traffic, even over bigger defenders. LeBlanc had a strong showing at the event on both ends of the floor, although he should since he was one of the only juniors in attendance."
When Dover beat second-ranked Salem in the New Hampshire Division 1 opening round, LeBlanc apparently willed his team to victory.
A full game: New Hampton vs. Vermont Academy. LeBlanc is #23 in white.
A second full game: New Hampton vs. Notre Dame Prep. LeBlanc is again #23 in white.