WAUWATOSA, Wis. (BVM) — It wasn’t a matter of if Wauwatosa East star basketball player Leon Bond would go Division I, it was where and when. Bond answered those questions July 30 when the Class of 2022 top-100 recruit committed to the University of Virginia led by Wisconsin native Tony Bennett.
“I’m still amazed, I’m still on my high,” Bond said. “I remember when I committed right away you’re on this high where with anything you’re so happy. I’m still there and that’s why I truly feel like I made the right decision because every day I wake up I’m happy about my decision, I never regretted it. It feels amazing.”
— Leon Bond III (@leonbx35) July 30, 2021
Bond chose the Cavaliers over several other offers including other finalists Cincinnati and Marquette as well as Texas A&M, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
“All the other schools that pursued me are all great programs with a bunch of really great people,” Bond said. “But, Virginia really stood out to me with the type of people Coach Bennett recruits and the type of people he makes. One thing about Virginia players you hear is yeah they’re really good basketball players, even great basketball players, but they’re even better people which is what really hooked me to Virginia.”
Bond’s commitment gives the Cavaliers three top-100 recruits in the Class of 2022 joining fellow four-star prospects Isaac Traudt and Isaac McKneely from Grand Island, Nebraska, and Poca, West Virginia. respectively.
“I think our future is very bright,” Bond said. “I knew when I was coming in I knew I wanted to be surrounded by a bunch of other great players. I was talking to the other Isaacs, McKneely and Traudt, and we wanted to build something special. McKneely got me hooked early on and I got Traudt hooked early on. It was a little chain so it’s good.”
The Wisconsin connection between Clintonville, Wisconsin, native Bennett and Milwaukee native Bond was also a huge pull for the senior. Bennett, who had once worked under his father Dick Bennett for the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team, had experience with top level athletes from Wauwatosa East, having convinced Red Raiders’ legend Devin Harris to commit to the Badgers. This familiarity helped the duo of Bennett and Bond connect on an even deeper level, something that was not lost by Bond.
“I know I had some hometown love, but to me it felt like since Coach Bennett was from Wisconsin, he knows everything about Wisconsin, his family is from Wisconsin, it still has that hometown feel,” Bond said. “Even though I was going to Virginia we still have those Wisconsin ties and connections so it’s good.”
The decision comes after a memorable run for the Wauwatosa East Red Raiders this past season. During the year, the 6-foot-5, 185-pound small forward averaged 11.8 points and 5.9 rebounds while leading the team to a Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division I state title. Bond scored 10 points in the title game as the school won its third championship along with titles in 2008 and 1991.
“It was amazing. You don’t really ever forget about that,” Bond said. “Everyday little things remind you of it like seeing a picture or seeing our trophy, it’s amazing. I was with a great group of guys and I relive it every day in my head.”
Although highlight plays like rim-rattling dunks and alley-oops are what fans usually will see when they search Bond’s name, closer inspection of his game show that the rising senior’s best asset is his defense. A high-energy player, Bond’s incredible wingspan helps him contest shots, close passing windows and get blocks, even at the rim. This defensive ability should pay dividends for a Cavs program that has been known for its defensive prowess under Bennett.
“Coach Bennett told me he thinks in four or five years, no matter how long he has me, that I’ll be the best defender in the nation when he’s done,” Bond said. “With that, that really motivates me even harder to work on the defensive end. Offense will come but defense is a big effort thing and I think I will grow that way with Coach Bennett.”
Additionally beneficial for the Cavaliers, it appears that Bond is a player rapidly on the rise. Over the summer, Bond had a strong showing for AAU team JH1 Elite which elevated him into 247 Sports top 100 players at No. 39 nationally and No. 1 in Wisconsin. The rising senior also saw a bump up into the Class of 2022 ESPN 100 as he went from unranked to No. 74 before this season.
In his recent article on Class of 2022 prospects on the rise, ESPN’s Paul Biancardi mentioned Bond among the group.
“One of the more physical prospects in the Class of 2022, Bond’s lateral foot speed and impressive fast-twitch fibers give his vertical some extra pop. He is 6-foot-5, 180 pounds, and his plus wingspan should factor on the defensive side,” Biancardi wrote. “Offensively, he is best at scoring in or near the paint by way of driving, cutting, a quick post-up or a pull-up jumper. He can be physical and effective, even though he is an undersized wing.”
Though Bond does notice some of the outside chatter from basketball pundits and recruiting sites, he tends not to pay them much attention as he usually will hear the news from family and friends. Though flattered, he tries to stay focused on his game.
“You try not to focus on rankings because a kid could be ranked top 10 in the nation then come into college and not do anything,” Bond said. “Rankings truly don’t matter, it’s really how you work when you get to the next level because anybody can beat anybody on any given day.”
According to Bond, Bennett sees him as a defensive asset and a player who could impact games defensively early in his career.
“Right now, he said you can’t tell how people translate to college, but he sees me as a force on defense,” Bond said. “If I were to make an impact right away it would be on defense. … [Fans should expect] a hardworking, defense playing player. I’m going to come in, I’m going to bring energy, I’m going to play defense, I’m going to do anything I can to win. I think really you’re getting a winner and that’s the biggest thing.”
It is clear that Bond will be a player to watch during his senior season this winter. As a player who has only seen growth over the last calendar year, expectations are high for Bond and his Wauwatosa East team. With a player of his caliber, a state title defense is not out of the question. Expect Bond’s success to continue to grow in 2021 and into the future.
“I would love to run back a state title. I’d love to repeat,” Bond said. “I’d love to hit [1,000] points, I know I want to hit 1K points, I know I’m not too far off. I want to make sure I cement my name in Tosa East history as one of the best players to come out of Tosa East.”