On certain school nights, after the squeaks of sneakers subside and Tuscarora (Va.) Coach Michael Newkirk blows the final whistle of basketball practice at the Leesburg school, sophomore Megan Leonard ambles out of the gym, hops into the family’s Honda Pilot and requests a pit stop.
Leonard’s dad, Chris, drives away from the school, takes a right turn at the first stoplight and follows the road for about a mile before hooking another right.
The SUV rolls to a stop out front of the Ida Lee Recreation Center, and Megan slips back into her Nikes for a night session.
First she shoots midrange jumpers. Once content, she moves to the free throw line, focusing on her form. Then she progresses to dribbling and driving.
Leonard hones her specialty last, shooting threes from a stationery stance — like she would in a three-point contest — and then attempting long shots off the dribble.
The routine has paid off. Leonard leads all AA Dulles District girls with 52 three-pointers this season. And any time her shooting stroke feels a little off at practice, a night session at Ida Lee provides the elixir.
“That type of desire from within, that’s all her,” Chris Leonard said. “She wants it. It’s not something that anybody is pushing on her.”
Megan Leonard’s shooting pedigree is another asset. As a member of Loudoun Valley’s 1988 state finalist team, Chris is a Loudoun County legend in his own right — and like his daughter, Leonard’s specialty was the three-point shot.
He was an Atlantic 10 all-conference guard at West Virginia in 1992. During the course of his college career he made 200 threes, including eight in one game in a win against cross-state rival Marshall.
“Frankly, the reason I was able to play at West Virginia was because of the three-point line. I only had it for my senior year in high school,” Chris said.
Megan Leonard established herself as an outside threat as a freshman for the Huskies (14-7, 12-5 AA Dulles) when she hit 52 long-range shots — 45 more than the rest of her team combined.
She drilled five treys en route to a game-high 15 points in Tuscarora’s three-point season-opening win over Heritage in November.
“A lot of threes set the tone for how I was going to come out in the district,” Leonard said.
Since that night, Leonard has made four threes in two games hit six threes in a season-best 22-point performance against Champe . Her shooting and her unselfishness opens up offensive options for the rest of the Huskies, particularly the team’s leading scorers — junior Alysha Berry (12 points per game) and sophomore Alexis Bailey (10).
“When she is on with her three-pointers, everybody gets hyped up on the floor and we end up pushing ourselves harder,” Bailey said. “That’s how we end up winning a lot of our games.
“I know when I pass it to her and she’s wide open, she can knock it down.”
When her shots don’t fall early in games, Leonard said she curbs her attempts and focuses on defending. She likes to start games by driving in the paint and drawing fouls. This way, she can find her touch at the free throw line and apply those techniques beyond the arc.
Leonard’s work-ethic – she is first, second or third in every conditioning drill — and voracity to round out every aspect of her game are the reasons Newkirk labels her “the epitome” of his basketball program. He jokes he would clone her and put 11 Megan’s on the court if he could.
“The biggest attribute is her IQ,” Newkirk said. “A lot of things come to her just by being in the right place at the right time.”
Leonard carries a 4.3 GPA with a schedule filled with honors and Advaned Placement classes, but her basketball smarts are a product of all the extra basketball she watches with her dad, she said.
Usually the Mountaineers are on the TV when Chris will point out how players move without the ball; how their feet are set to shoot before the ball is passed to them.
Chris Leonard said he never pushed basketball on his daughter, but once she committed to hours of added work at Ida Lee, he instructed her on the technicalities of a consistent shot. In emulating her father, Megan has become one of the district’s most dangerous shooters.
“I always wanted to be a shooter like my dad, and he always helped me,” Leonard said. “It just happened that I was pretty good at shooting threes.”