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Ivan Leshinsky, Midwood High School graduate and alumni of the Israeli National Basketball Premier League: A ‘Late Bloomer’

May 23, 2022 Andy Furman
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He doesn’t know when to quit.

But Ivan Leshinsky was always a “late bloomer.”

The Midwood High graduate wasn’t a basketball starter until his senior year.
So, it really wasn’t a surprise to see the big 6-foot-6 former LIU star playing in the
National Senior Games in Ft. Lauderdale.

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“I can still do it,” the 75-year-old Leshinsky told the Eagle after one of his tournament
games last week. “I still have my hook shot.”

The National Senior Games are played every-other year – next year they’re set for
Pittsburgh – a make-up for the missed Covid year postponement.
As for Leshinsky, well he’s a real veteran of the games.

“This is my fifth go-around,” he said, “I’ve played in Houston, Minneapolis, Cleveland
and Birmingham.”

The four-day tournament, played in the Ft. Lauderdale Civic Center, consisted of 17
teams in two divisions, according to Leshinsky. “There’s the Gold and Silver Divisions,”
he said.

And Leshinsky’s squad – winners of just one game in their first four starts – was locked
in the Silver Division with eight other teams. The top nine teams are Gold Division
members.

The tournament is a half-court game, he said, with two 15-minute halves. “The last two
minutes are running time,” he reminded.

Some of the rules, are, well quirky he adds. “If you’re fouled in the act of shooting,” he
said, “the shooting team keeps possession of the basketball.”

Scouting the opposition, Leshinsky says the best guard in the tournament is a 71-year-
old “youngster.”
Ivan Leshinsky played in the 1968 National Invitational Tournament while an LIU senior.
That team went to quarterfinals: they beat Bradley and lost to Notre Dame by a point.
He averaged 10 points and 10 rebounds per-game on a team that featured two superstars.

“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.”

He claims he’s averaging about 10-12 points-per-game against the seniors.
“My reactions are a bit slower,” he said, “and I can’t go after the ball like I used to.”
And he doubles as player-coach for the squad.

“It’s funny,” he says, “I’m the only guy on the team that’s played college basketball. But I
guess you really can’t tell.”

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 top Celtics’ training camp,” he remembers. “In fact, I met Celtics coach
Red Auerbach at Junior’s Restaurant with my LIU coach, Roy Rubin.

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

Ivan Leshinsky doing an author talk at Long Island University.

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 – and now he’s playing in the National Senior Games.

“I’ve been doing this for close to 10 years,” he said, “and the only guy I knew in the
Games was Bob Rossin,” he said.

Rossin played at LIU – prior to Leshinsky – and played his high school basketball at
Columbus High in the Bronx.

“He played for (Coach) Rubin at Columbus High, before Rubin made the move to LIU,”
Leshinsky said.

Ivan Leshinsky, for sure is a “late bloomer.”

And it looks like he’s getting better with age.

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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