As a Bloomington native, one gets the impression that Anthony Lil was born to perform in the auditorium.
In 2020, Mr. Basketball from Indiana, Leal finished his second year with the Hoosiers the same way he did in his first year. He got little playing time off the bench in 17 games and made a total of two starts for Mike Woodson. As a freshman, Lil played 20 games for Archie Miller.
Anthony Leal Indiana Sting
The 6-foot-5-inch goalie started his first career game in December. 22 against Northern Kentucky because of a disciplinary problem with Parker Stewart that left the regular starter on the bench in the first half. Then, in February, Lil made his Northwestern debut after five Indiana players were suspended, including goalies Stewart and Xavier Johnson. At Northwestern, Lil played a career-high 34 minutes and scored five points.
Leal’s best game in an Indiana uniform came in January of his first year at Wisconsin. In Madison, Lil played 34 minutes and shot 3-of-6 from outside the box. Lil finished nine points behind those 3-pointers, a career record in both categories.
At the dawn of his freshman year, Lil stated on the court that he focused on getting rid of hesitation and feeling more confident with the ball in his hands. When Lil saw the court in the last two years, that shyness was noticeable. He just looked uncomfortable.
Lil also has room for improvement defensively. At times, Lil has had trouble defending without scoring. In the games for Wisconsin and Northwestern mentioned earlier, Lil finished those games with seven combined fouls. This is a problem that will need to change if Lil wants to see more court. Under Mike Woodson, the emphasis on individual defense was huge. We saw it last year with guys like Lil, Christian Lander and Tamar Bates. When conference play started and they couldn’t track defense, they just didn’t play as much.
“I have the most defensive potential … I think if I can continue to grow and develop and be the guy that can keep the best forward on the other team, I’ll have a great opportunity to play,” Leal said on Indiana media day.
It’s a shame that Lil came to Indiana as a forward, but it hasn’t worked out so far. In his first two years, Lil made only 16 of 52 (31%) three-point shots. In two years, Lil has only scored seven goals from the game, which have fallen short on 3-pointers. If Lil can become a two-way player and shoot from outside at a high level, he could see more time this year. It’s probably out of the question for Lil to go up and down at this point in his career.
It’s also important to note that Lil has struggled with injury. At Hoosier Hysteria in October. On the 7th, Lil wore a walking boot on his right foot and did not participate in hand-to-hand combat or any competition. This is worth paying attention to as we approach the exhibitions and the regular season begins.
Last season, Leal’s impact was mostly evident on the bench, energizing his team. You may have noticed the candy-striped free-throw celebration from the bench during the Big Ten Tournament, or when Leal asked Flight Thompson who had the best beard on the team on media day.
Bottom line: with the exception of injuries, Lil probably won’t see a significant increase in minutes this season. But his role on the bench has not gone unnoticed. If he can give a boost of energy when he sees the field and still be a supportive teammate, it will make a big difference to his fellow bullies on the field. Defense and confidence have been Leal’s strengths over the summer. If he can become a reliable 3-point forward and compete defensively, it will add healthy depth to the Indiana bench this season.
Quote, “You’re going to have your stats and everything you earn on the field, but where you really make an impact on people is what you do beyond that. So I try to set a good example, be a great friend, be a great person, and as far as how I play on the bench … I think if I was out there playing, I’d want my bench to support me and cheer me on and back me up no matter what. So, I’m trying to start with that and create a trend where all the guys support each other and the energy is contagious. So I’m trying to generate some passion, and I think that’s helped and will continue to help.” – Lil on the impact he had on the bench and in the locker room.