Brooklyn Boro

A pretty good finish for one late bloomer

June 28, 2021 Andy Furman
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Ivan Leshinsky is the true “late bloomer.”

The kid who grew up living on Avenue J and Ocean Avenue and later attended P.S 193 became a basketball star.

But it took time – a long time.

The Midwood High graduate wasn’t a basketball starter until his senior year.

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“I was 6-6,” Leshinsky told the Eagle, “but I must’ve weighed about 170 dripping wet.”

Yet, the 1963 grad was the most improved on that ballclub, leading the squad in scoring and rebounding.

“I never thought about basketball being in my future,” he said, “I was recruited by about five schools, and LIU was one of them.”

And LIU it was.

“My brother was a senior at LIU when I was in high school,” Leshinsky recalled, “so I thought it was a good option.”

Let’s face it – Ivan Leshinksy didn’t have many options.

In fact, after his sophomore year Leshinsky didn’t see himself playing much in the future. So, he sat out a year, and had two years of eligibility remaining with the then-LIU Blackbirds.

“I think I may have been the first red shirt in school history,” he said.

Ivan Leshinsky, former LIU forward and current director of a youth organization. Photo courtesy of Andy Furman

So Leshinsky didn’t play at all during the 1965-66 season, and came back as a junior the following year.

And again, as a senior, Ivan Leshinsky – just like in high school – started to blossom as a basketball star.

“We had Luther Green and Larry Newbold, and they did all the shooting,” Leshinsky said, “all I did was get them the ball. I started at forward the entire season and averaged 10 points and 10 rebounds-per-game.”

He played in the 1968 National Invitation Tournament quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden on an LIU team that beat Bradley and lost to Notre Dame by a point.

And in the 1968 NBA draft, Leshinsky was selected by the Boston Celtics in the tenth round (130th pick overall). He chose instead to go to Israel to play basketball.

“I never went to Celtics’ training camp,” he remembers. “I fact, I met Celtics Coach Red Auerbach at Junior’s Restaurant with LIU Coach Roy Rubin.

“I think my NBA fate was sealed when Coach Rubin told Red that I wanted a no-cut contract. It was pretty clear that went my NBA career.”

Off to Israel – for three years in the Israeli Basketball Premier League, all for Hapoel Tel Aviv, from 1968 to 1971. He also played for the Israeli National Team. He competed in the 1969 FIBA European Championships for Men, averaging 14.7 points-per-game, and in the 1970 Asian Games, at which he won a silver medal with Team Israel.

But in reality, Leshinsky was still a bloomer, and basketball took him to his true life’s work.

After some stints as a teacher at Westinghouse High School, he moved to Baltimore and earned his M. Ed., with a Special Education major at The George Washington University.

“My brother lived in nearby Rockville (Md.). He was a tax consultant and introduced me to a client who opened a Special Education school in Annapolis,” he said. “They paid for my degree.”

He eventually became the Executive Director of the Chesapeake Foundation for Human Development (CFHD) in Baltimore which operates programs for youths who are disadvantaged.

“We changed our branding to the Chesapeake Center for Youth Development (CCYD),” he said. And he’s been the Director for some 37 years.

“I retired in 2017,” said the 74-year-old Leshinsky, “and started volunteering after about six months.”

Yes, Ivan Leshinsky was still blooming – late – but blooming.

He formed the Southwest Sport and Fitness Alliance (SSFA) in 2018. “I’m the Volunteer Director,” he said, “we’ll hire someone this summer.”

“I organized and led a group of neighbors and friends to create a framework for comprehensive athletic, sport and fitness opportunities for children and youth in southwest Baltimore. We incorporated and we were building, momentum, even as Covid changed almost everything,” he wrote on his Linked-In account.

And if that wasn’t giving back to a community, he decided to write a book – Teaming Up, A Memoir about Sports, Work, Travel, Family and Neighbors.

“I started writing the book as a gift to my immediate family, nieces and nephews and closest friends but soon realized there was a lot more to my story and others would probably would enjoy reading it as well,” he said.

Ivan Leshinsky said he benefited a lot from organized sports and fitness growing up, and now he can help make it happen in others.

“Sports and recreational opportunities are a big part of any vibrant community,” he said.

Well said Ivan Leshinsky – and not too bad for a late bloomer.

Andy Furman is a Fox Sports Radio national talk show host. Previously, he was a scholastic sports columnist for the Brooklyn Eagle. He may be reached at: [email protected] Twitter: @AndyFurmanFSR

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