Humble and driven might be the most accurate terms to describe Seton Hill University’s (SHU’s) Malachi Leonard, senior forward for the Griffins basketball team. Born and raised in York, PA, Malachi transferred to SHU in the fall of 2012 after originally being signed to play for North Carolina A&T. His decision to come to SHU was based on the Griffins basketball coaches, especially head coach Morocco, who made a family atmosphere out of SHU.
“Somehow, Coach Morocco and our assistant coaches heard of me and drove to my house to meet with me and my parents, which really let me know what type of person he was, and from there I knew that I wanted to play basketball for his team,” said Leonard.
Leonard was able to make an impact right away as a two-year starter for the Griffins. After averaging 13.0 points per-game (ppg), 6.8 rebounds per game (rpg), and 1.3 blocks per game (bpg) in his first year, Leonard has proven to be even more dominant this second year of play for the Griffins. Currently averaging close to a double double with 17.0 ppg, 9.1 rpg, and a high .706 free throw percentage (ftp) has helped prove Leonard’s improvement this season.
The answers to the progress is simple according to Leonard. “This summer I sacrificed the time that I could have been home with family, friends and the people I love and stayed here at school training, and working on new skills that would better my game and separate me from the rest. Which helped take my game to another level,” said Leonard.
The road to success for Leonard was not easy though. Leaving behind his fiancé, Ashley, and son, Ja’kobi, to chase his childhood dream of one day becoming a professional basketball player was rough for Leonard.
“By trusting and believing in God, he blessed my family by staying strong through tough times, blessed me in my sport by allowing me to play phenomenal to my best ability and allowed my faith to grow even stronger,” said Leonard.
With playoffs right around the corner, the Griffins basketball team holds a record of 15-9 (7-7 in Conference), but is ready to make a run and stun opponents. Currently ranked fifth in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC), the Griffins look for newcomers such as freshmen Noah Davis, Zach Herman and Nebojsa Stanojevic to step up. Seniors Oliver McGlade, Nate Perry and team captain, Leonard, will help bring some maturity and experience this postseason.
“Playoffs are a time where great players prove to the world why they belong on the basketball court and that’s what I plan on doing. No matter if we win or lose, I know my team and I will give it all we have,” said Leonard.
The goal for the Griffins basketball team is clear: to place themselves in the best predicament to win it all in their first year of play in the PSAC. Most importantly, Leonard looks at it as a chance to work hard everyday and be the best student athlete he can be.
“To be a Griffin, one must not only excel on the court, but also in the classroom, as well as support this school and all the students, athletes and professors who are associated with SHU,” said Leonard.
Apart from the great support from his family and friends, Leonard’s upsize is his athletic ability that keeps his dream alive to one day pursue his talents and play professionally at the next level. This 6-foot-8 inch, 225 pound forward, who can stretch the floor, pull up for a shot from the elbow and shine on defense, does not come around often. He is a rare breed that opposing teams must prepare for by studying film and creating a game plan week in and week out.
When asked if a possible career in basketball was in reach after graduation, Leonard replied, “Yes, right now I have a great chance to further my basketball career and play professional basketball somewhere.”
At the end of the day, Malachi Leonard reveals role model tendencies for upcoming athletes in the future. His positions as a father figure to his own family, captain of the Griffins basketball team, three-time PSAC West Men’s Basketball Athlete of the Week and a man of God all play a role in piecing the puzzle to whom Leonard is.
“I would like to be remembered for the man SHU helped me become. Special thanks to every single one of my professors for putting up with me and helping me earn my degree. I would also like to encourage my classmates to stay strong and remember to fight for your dreams, and to trust God and watch Him make a way for you to live them out,” said Leonard.