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Maywood, 01/25/13--Leyden's Anthony Gonzalez goes up for a basket. Proviso East High School hosted Leyden High School in boys basketball Friday evening. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Leyden senior Anthony Gonzalez did not play basketball his freshman year of high school.
He has spent the past three seasons making up for the time he lost.
The big man has been a solid contributor on the floor and in the locker room for the Eagles, who dropped a 77-39 West Suburban Gold decision to talented Proviso East Friday night in Maywood.
“Anthony has just been a great addition for us this year, in the fact that he has really emerged as a leader,” said Leyden coach Bill Heisler. “More so than being a leader, he has been solid, night in and night out. From where he came as a freshman — he was not in our program — he was making some bad choices in his life.
“He kind of got things figured out along the way. I think, not only has he been a good example of someone who has really turned things around off the floor, but on the floor he is averaging almost a double-double.
“We are incredibly better when he is in there. He has missed a couple of games with knee injuries, and that is two of our losses this year.”
Even though the 6-foot-4 Gonzalez, who lives in River Grove and also played baseball as a youngster, was not on the team his freshman season, he never dismissed the idea that he would play hoops again.
“I played eighth-grade and grade-school basketball,” said Gonzalez. “And then high school did not start off so good for me, I kind of messed up a little bit. But it was always in the back of my mind to come back.
“Finally I decided to actually do something about it and play. It was hard for me, it took me a while to get mentally ready to play every day. I was not really used to playing this serious kind of basketball. I was used to playing at the rec (center) and stuff, so it was a big step for me.”
Gonzalez is hopeful that his basketball career will continue at the collegiate level. He has talked to coaches from Aurora University and Kishwaukee College.
He credits basketball with steering him away from trouble.
“It has kept me busy, all my time is dedicated to basketball,” said Gonzalez, whose favorite subject is history. “I do not really have any time to do anything else. When I get home, I am tired so I just stay at home.”
His teammates, including senior point guard Jayqual Jackson, also have noticed an improvement in Gonzalez’s game, especially this year.
“Every game he comes to play, though,” said Jackson. “I feed off him, and he feeds off me. Stretch (Gonzalez), basically, he is my first option for anything.”~.