TERRE HAUTE —
Brant Leitnaker chased pain throughout his four-year Indiana State basketball career and he’s tired of it.
Leitnaker suffered a foot injury before what would have been his sophomore season and never really recovered. With graduation in his sight this summer, Leitnaker elected to walk away from the Sycamore basketball team rather than endure another season of trying to overcome pain.
“I went home and I thought about it. I talked to my folks. I’m graduating and I just didn’t myself playing another season of basketball. I’m going to graduate this summer, I have two more classes,” Leitnaker said. “It was hard for me, because I know I can still play basketball, but I felt like it was limping through the season with my foot sore all of the time. I have a couple of screws in it and I’ve never been 100 percent.”
Leitnaker’s departure from ISU was amicable.
ISU coach Kevin McKenna never had the services of a healthy Leitnker, he was injured just before the 2007-08 season.
“I think Brant’s probably really frustrated with how things went, but he should be proud. He battled through injuries and he played well at times. At other times, he didn’t have the mobility because of the foot injury. He was never able to keep improving with his health,” McKenna said.
Leitnaker came to ISU from Lancaster, Ohio in 2006 as part of Royce Waltman’s last recruiting class. He came to ISU a player the program thought could be a mobile big man. He played in 12 games during his freshman season and scored four points.
“Greg [Lansing, associate head coach] was really the only guy on staff who was here his first year. He was mobile, a floor runner and a dunker. He was never able to get back to that type of mobility. To have [mobility] and then not be able to do it, it had to be frustrating,” McKenna said.
Leitnaker sat out the 2007-08 season — McKenna’s first as head coach — with a foot injury. He was still hampered by injuries when he began his sophomore season of 2008-09, he averaged 2.1 points. Last season, he played 31 games and started 24 of them. He averaged 2.8 points and 1.7 rebounds.
“It was a good experience. It was a great opportunity to play basketball and be a part of the team. I don’t have any complaints,” said Leitnaker, who did express one regret as the last Waltman recruit to finish his career. “I was the last of the Mohicans, but maybe, I’d have some more of the Mohicans with me. I came in with Norman Wells, Cole Holmstrom, Marico Stinson and Harry Marshall. It was kind of sad to see some of those guys go. You got pretty cool with those guys, it was kind of shame they weren’t there at the end.”
Leitnaker has been student teaching in the area — first at Riley Elementary and currently at Terre Haute South. He hopes to go into coaching as well as teaching.
With men’s basketball in a recruiting quiet period, McKenna’s options are limited right now as far as filling Leitnaker’s scholarship.
“It’s late in the process. There’s some guys we’re looking at, but I don’t want to fill a scholarship just to fill it,” McKenna said.
ISU will have Isiah Martin, junior college transfer Myles Walker, true freshman Jake Kitchell and redshirt freshman R.J. Mahurin patrolling the paint next season. Forwards Carl Richard and Koang Doluony can also play at the four-spot.
• Notes — R.J. Mahurin, who will be eligible as a redshirt freshman next season, will be part of a Missouri Valley Conference-laden Athletes In Action team that will travel to Europe in May. … McKenna will take part in a separate AIA coaching clinic with Creighton coach Dana Altman next week in Berlin, Germany. … Though coaching jobs around college basketball are still in flux, McKenna indicated that there are no staff changes planned for next season.