BULLHEAD CITY — The Mohave Accelerated Learning Center Patriots had a very successful 2018-19 boys basketball season, and 6-foot-5, 185-pound center Jacob Leslie had a lot to do with it.
Leslie earned Arizona Interscholastic Association 1A Conference Defensive Player of the Year and AIA 1A West Region Player of the Year awards following MALC’s 14-4 overall, 13-1 in conference and 6-0 in region year, which ended his junior season after the Patriots fell to the Fort Thomas High School Apaches in the second round of the 2019 AIA Boys Basketball 1A State Championship on Feb. 16.
“When I found out that I won the region player of the year, I was very proud of myself, and even though I felt I was the front runner for it, I was still wondering if I’d get the award or not,” said Leslie by email. “When I found out that I won, I felt accomplished because that was my goal at the beginning of the year, and to go out and get the award gave me all the confidence in the world.”
If earning the region player of the year was not enough, Leslie superseded that accolade.
“When I got the text that I won defensive player of the conference, I was so excited,” Leslie said. “I ran out of the room. Of course, I knew about the award and I wanted it, but it wasn’t a goal of mine until towards the end of this year. I treated an award of that caliber as a goal for next year rather than a goal I could’ve received this year — to be honest, I really didn’t even know I did that great of a job to be recognized across all of 1A overall.
“I’m very thankful for the recognition, and I can’t wait to do better next year.”
Leslie embraced his role clearly in 2018-19.
“The biggest thing mentally that Jacob understood was he was the top player on the team,” said MALC assistant coach Scott Neal by cell phone. “There were no seniors to lean on, so he had to become a dominant player his junior year.
“He protected the rim more all year, and that showed in his stats.
“He was unselfish multiple times thoughout the year. He could have taken a shot, but passed the ball to a player for a layup.”
MALC head coach Joey Leslie was elated when he heard his son earned such recognition.
“(The) first thing I thought about was how proud I was as a father,” said the MALC head coach by text message. “I know the personal sacrifice and hard work he puts in every day.
“He deserved it.
“I was generally happy and honored to know he was recognized by the state.”
The MALC center went into his junior season with confidence and with trust in his ability and his teammates trust him, Coach Leslie said.
“He couldn’t do it without them,” he added. “And this year we’re expanding his ability and role on the perimeter, to add another dimension to his game — like a 3-pointer and taking his opponent off the drive.”