Nothing came easy on Luke Leisner’s rise from an eighth-grader cut from traveling basketball to sixth-man for Andover’s varsity.
Leisner, a senior forward and the Huskies’ defensive stopper, demands an honest day’s work from the opponents he guards. Several times this season, he has helped hold several more heralded players at or below their scoring averages.
His relentless style endears him to teammates who wouldn’t blame him for having less to give. Leisner’s father, Michael, died suddenly three years ago. His mother, Jan, has cancer. But adversity at home hasn’t affected his spirit.
“He’s probably the most positive, energetic guy on the team,” senior guard Trevor Siebold said. “He accepts his situation and doesn’t let it slow him down at all.”
Siebold caught glimpses of Leisner’s commitment back in 2012. Anytime Siebold went to the local Life Time Fitness, he saw Leisner working out alone on the court. Leisner’s response to getting cut from the top teams as an eighth-grader? Four hours of basketball every day. Sometimes more if his ride home came later.
“I had never experienced failure, someone saying, ‘You’re not good enough,’ to do something,” Leisner said. “That kind of drove me. I knew if I wanted to succeed, I had to work.”
Hunger still drives Leisner, a 6-4 post player. While Andover has lost this season against Delano, Maple Grove and Armstrong, Leisner played his counterparts well. He gave up size but not many points. Armstrong’s True Thompson scored seven points. Maple Grove’s Reed Nikko, who signed with Missouri last month, scored 10 points. Delano’s Matt Kreklow scored eight points, less than half his season average.
“It’s great to see a kid who was cut from eighth-grade basketball now defending some really good players,” Andover coach Matt Aune said. “He doesn’t back down. He understands this is a game, but he understands the value of hard work. He gets it, more than most kids.”
Blocks and steals are statistical measures for strong defense. But Leisner also does the little things well. Moving his feet. Denying position. Keeping his man out of sorts.
“I take pride in defense,” Leisner said. “I want the offensive player to know that they’re not going to get an easy basket. I want them to be scared when they come down the court.”
Away from the court, Leisner relies on his strong Christian faith to find purpose in tragedy. But he hurts sometimes, too.
Losing his father, he said, “was tough. That was the summer I did my four hours of basketball a day. He saw me working every day, but he never got to see the results.”
His mother’s cancer, originally diagnosed in 2008, went into remission. But it returned.
“It’s not looking good,” Leisner said. “We’re taking it day by day.”
His father modeled work ethic for Luke. What thrills Jan is the idea that her son will bring similar zeal to other aspects of his life. Leisner said he is contemplating a future in video production, business or graphic design.
“I’m going to make sure that work ethic transfers to every area of my life,” Leisner said.