BULLHEAD CITY — When you consider the lineage of Jacob Leslie, senior basketball player at Mohave Accelerated Learning Center, it’s no surprise the sport became one of his passions.
After all, his grandmother has always loved the game and his father, Joey, is the Patriots’ head coach. Jacob’s younger brother, Lucas, also plays basketball as does their sixth-grade sister, Haley.
To say it’s a family affair is to say the ball is round. (Well, you don’t say.)
It didn’t always come easy for Jacob, who turns 18 years old on Friday.
“When I was going into high school, I wasn’t good at basketball,” he said. “But there was a point I decided to take it seriously and asked my dad to make me better. We started working out, so I developed a mentality that I would never be outworked and I would give my all.”
Elbow grease and persistence have paid off, as Jacob is MALC’s starting center, under the watchful eyes of Joey, who has served as coach for a dozen years.
The elder Leslie gives credit to Athletics Director Jeremy Klingensmith and Supt. Casey Mulligan for allowing him to oversee the boys varsity team.
“Words cannot describe my gratitude and respect I have for them. They gave me a chance to live out my dreams,” said Joey, noting that he fell in love with basketball because of his mother.
“She always took me to games,” he explained. Once I started playing, the game took over me. Basketball was an escape, no matter if I played in the driveway or in front of 1,000 fans. It’s a beautiful game.”
Although his biological sons play for him, Joey said all the players he has coached are like sons to him.
“They have taught me as much as I have taught them. I am a lucky man because they have allowed me to be a part of their lives and I will always be grateful.”
Jacob is equally grateful to be the centerpiece of a varsity high school squad as he contemplates life after graduation. He is striving to play basketball at college — possibly in Massachusetts or Illinois — where he plans to study psychology and music.
He also volunteers around the Mohave Valley community, having worked at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Colorado River youth basketball camp, where he taught the basics.
“He likes to help people,” said Joey. “It’s in his heart.”
Given his panoply of hobbies and interests, Jacob isn’t certain how far he will pursue the game.
“I don’t know that I’d enjoy having a professional basketball career. I love to make music as well, so I could definitely see myself having a career in that field,” he said. “Simply put, my ultimate dream would be playing D-1 basketball for four years, graduating, then traveling and working with my favorite artists/producers in the music business.”
It isn’t a stretch to point out Jacob has become a role model for younger players — so what advice would he give them?
“I would tell an aspiring student-athlete to never take a day off and to stay on top of your school work, because both are vital to high school and eventually college success.”
His father expounded deeper on that point.
“When sports are played right, life lessons unfold,” said Joey. “Now, passing the love of basketball to my three children takes it to a different level. Sharing what the game has taught me is wonderful.
“If it was about me, I would have stopped a long time ago after the personal awards came (such as Coach of the Year for two divisions in consecutive years). I want to have an impact on players — it doesn’t matter if they play for my school or not. I’m involved in basketball at all levels. I want to help make anyone into better people for themselves, their families and our community. Basketball wins and losses come and go, but the impact that these young people can make means something. I just pray that I can be of some help.”