Miles Leathers couldn’t have dreamed of a better finish to his college basketball career.
Playing in his final game at Brevard College on senior day, the former East Mecklenburg High standout found his team tied 82-82 with rival Newberry College, and 4.7 seconds to play.
Leathers hauled in an 85-foot pass, between two defenders, from junior guard Stevie Williams and made the game-winning, left-handed layup with 3.3 seconds to play. Brevard won 84-82.
“The play call was great, it was almost like a Hail Mary and just go get it,” Leathers said. “Stevie made a great pass and all I had to do was finish. After I made the layup, the feeling was just surreal and it’s still hard to believe that was the last play of my college basketball career. It still doesn’t seem real.
“Just watching the video of that play still gives me chills, watching the crowd, my teammates and even my own reaction.”
Leathers, 22, said the postgame celebration was emotional as he tried to balance the jubilation of his game-winning shot with the realization that it was the last time he would wear his No. 5, Brevard basketball jersey.
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound guard/forward also knew it could be the last organized, team basketball of his life.
“Those final moments were very emotional, because I knew that could have been the last basket of my basketball career,” Leathers said. “I remember thinking, no matter what, the Brevard basketball chapter of my life was over.”
Leathers went on to graduate from Brevard College with a degree in exercise science on April 30. That day, he was supposed to be at a regional tryout for the USA Select Basketball team, but he chose the graduation ceremony.
Those final moments were very emotional, because I knew that could have been the last basket of my basketball career. I remember thinking, no matter what, the Brevard basketball chapter of my life was over.
Still, the USA Select basketball organizers invited him to the team’s European Exposure tryouts on June 10-12 at Carolina Courts in Indian Trail.
While more than 100 college basketball players from all over the country tried out, only 30 made the team. Leathers was one one of the players, and now is preparing to spend most of September overseas playing in a series of games against professional teams from England, Ireland, Norway and other countries.
Leathers also will be exposed to dozens of professional coaches, general managers and scouts.
“I’m really happy that Miles made the USA Select Basketball team and is starting to get some of the recognition he deserves,” said Lee Burgess, who coached Leathers all four years at Brevard “He is one of those guys that has always played in the shadows. What he accomplished at Brevard speaks for itself. But I feel like he can play at the professional level and he’s now got a great chance to prove it.”
Leathers will be in good hands under head coach and general manager, Sean Kilmartin.
Kilmartin was in a similar position in his own basketball career. After starring at Appalachian State for coach Bobby Cremins, Kilmartin went on to play professional in Europe for three seasons, with stints in England, Ireland and Spain.
For the last 18 years with USA Select Basketball, Kilmartin has helped hundreds of players land professional basketball careers. Leathers hopes to be the next success story.
“When I got to college I never expected to even have a chance to play professional basketball,” Leathers said. “So, now that this opportunity has come along, it’s just a blessing that I’m going to try to make the most of in every game. I’ve been a player that people have doubted all my life, so I just have to prove myself again.
“My focus is to play well enough to fulfill my dreams of playing professional basketball. The fact that the chance to play pro basketball is attainable, it just drives me even more.”
Leathers has made a habit of proving himself.
He started at East Mecklenburg, where he transformed from a “skinny role player,” into a first team, all-Southwestern 4A conference player, according to former East Meck coach, Jason Grube.
Leathers did it again at Division II Brevard College, which was the only team to offer him a scholarship.
At Brevard, Leathers contributed all four years. As a senior, he averaged 16 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.1 steals per game. He finished as the school’s all-time leader in assists (252), steals (170) and is tied for the school mark in rebounds (596). Leathers also scored 1,265 points, making him the only Brevard player to ever score more than 1,000 points, grab more than 500 rebounds, dish out more than 200 assist and nab more than 100 steals.
“Miles has always been the type of player that relishes the underdog role and will do whatever it takes to win games,” Grube said. “He’s been proving people wrong at every level. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him do it again now and thrive at the professional level.”
Leathers is working on his game this summer as he juggles basketball with his full-time job as camp counselor in North Carolina A&T’s outward bound program. He spends most of his weekends at home in South Charlotte with his parents, Randall and Evelyn Leathers.
He will go to USA Select basketball training camp the last week of August, before heading to Europe the first week of September.
“I never imagined that basketball could be my job and I could get paid for it,” Leathers said. “So, when I go to Europe, I’m looking at it as the opportunity of a lifetime. My goal is to keep playing basketball, no matter where it takes me.”
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.