Long ago, on a place in the internet that does not exist I once wrote about the impact that Kawhi Leonard had on the San Diego State program. Then I argued that Leonard was the individual that turned this program around and made the Aztecs who they are. He is reason for the success of the Aztecs in recruiting and on the court. Now it is extremely hard to argue otherwise.
My argument is that when you think about San Diego State you think about Leonard. He began a six year streak of NCAA Tournament appearances and led one of the Aztecs greatest teams, this year’s team not withstanding, to the program’s first Sweet Sixteen. Before that magical team that was spearheaded by Leonard, the Aztecs had never even received a seed better than 11.
When recruits post offers from San Diego State they usually post a picture of Leonard in their images. He is the player that the program sells the most. Because of Leonard players actually think about attending San Diego State, a big feat (if you do not believe me check recruiting for the rest of the Mountain West).
San Diego State’s pitch is that you can achieve greatness from the Mesa. Leonard has led two franchises to NBA Championships and been named Finals Most Valuable Player each time. He was not the number one pick, or seen as a can not miss prospect, but instead worked his way into an elite player. That is probably the best part of the Leonard story, that he made it on desire and hard work.
Running into an NBA player is exciting for any fan or young athlete. I can only imagine being on a visit to San Diego State and the coaches taking you to the JAM Center and you open the door and there is Leonard working out. Having Leonard on campus, which is where you can find him every summer, is huge in recruiting and for the program.
The moment is long deserved, but could not be at a better time as this version of the Aztecs are setting school records, reminiscent of Leonard’s team. He has done so much for the program through his hard work and determination. When he plays in the playoffs, they mention that he went to San Diego State, which equals more publicity. He made Viejas Arena the place to be, which it once again is. And he and his teammates set the standard that all Aztecs teams seek to beat. San Diego State today honors Leonard by retiring his jersey. Thank you Kawhi for putting the Aztecs on the map.