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Scholastic Roundup: Ivan Leshinsky just won’t quit

July 14, 2023 Andy Furman
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He’s in the 74-to-79-year-old category, wearing additional knee braces and ankle supports.

More than he did a year ago.

Yet, Ivan Leshinsky doesn’t know when to quit.

The former Midwood High and LIU basketballer is in Pittsburgh this week, playing in the National Senior Games — again.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

“That’s the way it goes,” he told the Eagle, “but I’m blessed to be out there hooking left and right and seeing who’s still out there as well, at this stage in their life.”

Leshinsky says he’s bolstered his team with Roger Raspen, now 78 years old and considered to be one of the greatest players to come out of Millersville University (Pa.). 

“And,” he adds, “we recruited another guy — he actually found me — who played freshman ball at Kentucky. His claim to fame is having to guard Louie Dampier in practice.”

As for Leshinsky, well, he truly was a late bloomer. He didn’t start at Midwood until he was a senior. So, it’s really no surprise to see the big 6-foot-6 former LIU star playing in the National Senior Games.

“I still have my hook shot,” he said. “I can still do it.”

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The National Senior Games are played every other year. Last year’s games were a make-up for the missed COVID-year postponement in Fort Lauderdale.

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

The four-day tournament in Ft. Lauderdale consisted of 17 teams in two divisions, according to Leshinsky. 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 quirky,” he adds. “If you’re fouled in the act of shooting, the shooting team keeps possession of the basketball.”

Ivan Leshinsky played in the 1968 National Invitational Tournament while an LIU senior. That team went to the 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,” he said. “All I did was get them the ball. I started at forward the entire season.”

Against the seniors, he says, he’s averaging about 9-12 points-per-game. “My reactions are a bit slower, and I can’t go after the ball like I used to.”

And he doubles as player-coach for the squad.

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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. “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.”

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New Utrecht High School’s football Alumni Day is set for Saturday, October 14. In addition to the annual Hall of Fame inductions, the Green and White will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the school’s 1973 undefeated team and will also honor the 1958 city champs by inducting both teams as single entities into the Hall of Fame.

Breakfast is set for 9 a.m. in the cafeteria and alumni photos will be taken on the field at noon, followed by a 2 p.m. kickoff with New Dorp.

Speaking of that 1958 New Utrecht squad, Allen Leibowitz — a Hall of Famer himself — was a member of that club.

Leibowitz led the city in scoring — he later served as assistant coach to Sy Rapp (1965-67) — and he served as head coach for the Utes from ’68 to ’75.

From 1985 to 1998, he was the school’s principal.

Currently, Leibowitz serves as assistant football coach at Byram Hills High School in Armonk, New York. He was a member of the 2021 HOF Class — essentially the first group of inductees.

He served as MC for the Alumni Day festivities last year.

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Leibowitz had some comments on Mickey Fisher —  the former super-basketball coach at Boys High School.

Fisher coached the Kangaroos for 23 years He also coached the Israeli National basketball team, preparing them for the 1960 Summer Olympics.

Under Fisher, Boys High went undefeated and won the PSAL title in 1959. The next year, Boys again went undefeated and again won the title.

In fact, five of his teams he coached won PSAL titles — four of them in the six years from 1957 to 1962, In one stretch, his teams won 60 games and lost two.

“Mickey Fisher was also a great football official,” Leibowitz writes. “He was the head official in many of the games I played in when I was a student at New Utrecht.”

Leibowitz added: “Despite his position on the field, he always had positive comments to the players during the game. A real professional and gentleman.”

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Leibowitz also had some kind words for Jay Rokeach – the FDR High School grad, also known as Jayro, who has served as PA announcer for the University of Miami’s baseball team for more than 50 years.

“I read the story in the Eagle,” Leibowitz wrote, “great and well deserving, as the school presented Rokeach with a personalized Jayro microphone.”

Leibowitz reminds us that when Jayro ran a summer camp, management had celebrities come to break Color War. “Jayro used to announce in his beaming voice, ‘Do you know who is on campus at this time,’ getting the kids all riled-up. ‘Do you believe that it is ________,’ and the kids went wild.’”

Leibowitz said when he and his wife Arlene were in Miami recruiting campers, Rokeach invited both to a Miami baseball game. “He had me come up to the booth and posted on the stadium screen, ‘Do you know who we have at today’s game? The legend, Allen Leibowitz,. aka Big Al. A fellow Brooklynite.”

Said Leibowitz: “That’s Jayro, very special and caring and never forgot where he came from.”

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The Intercollegiate Tennis Association recognized the top academic performers in the sport. And the LIU men’s and women’s tennis teams were well-represented.

Alex D’Anna, Sergio Fernandez Romera, Philip Hible, Lucas Hornung, Akhil Indrabalan, Gui Medeiros and Tuna Nergizoglu were there from the men’s team; and Leo Boisseau, Bianca Compuesto, Marian Deloziere, Victoria Erechtchenko, Kate Jorjoliani, Elinor Storkaas and Phoebe Watton from the women’s team were named ITA Scholar-Athletes.

The recognition goes to student-athletes who produced a 3.50 GPA during the 2022-23 academic year. Additionally, both groups of Sharks squads earned ITA All-Academic Team recognition for producing at least a 3.20 collective GPA as a team for the academic year.

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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