RALEIGH — C.J. Leslie, the area's top-rated high school basketball talent, will be busy this year.
As a top recruit, he has yet to decide where to play college basketball, but for now the Word of God senior forward is putting his high school team first.
"Our No. 1 goal this year is winning the state championship ring," Leslie said.
Not that Leslie has much to prove to college recruiters. He's ranked No. 12 in the class of 2010 by Scout.com.
Word of God fell narrowly in the NCISAA 1-A championship last season but won state titles in Leslie's freshman and sophomore years. The Holy Rams are now under new leadership, with Erasto Hatchett replacing Levi Beckwith as coach.
"We're still getting a feel for each other, but he seems to be a great guy," Leslie said.
All-Star Sports recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons said Leslie has a great future.
"I think he just has unlimited potential," Gibbons said. "He's so athletic and versatile."
Gibbons likened Leslie to former North Carolina forward Marvin Williams, who plays for the NBA's Atlanta Hawks.
"C.J. might be more of an explosive athlete," Gibbons said.
Gibbons praised Leslie's decision to play in the N.C. Pro-Am League at N.C. Central this summer, playing with professional and college players instead of on a club team.
"He didn't need the exposure [of the club team circuit]," Gibbons said.
Leslie said he learned from NBA free agent Jerry Stackhouse, former N.C. State guard Courtney Fells, and Los Angeles Lakers forward Josh Powell.
That mentoring should help him more than playing AAU basketball, Gibbons said.
"Playing with the best, with guys that are making the big bucks in the NBA, having the experience of just being on the court with them, there's no question [he gained more from that experience]," said Gibbons.
Leslie is excited about the attention he'll get this year, and he said he's prepared.
His experience as a former teammate of John Wall, last year's top recruit in the country, might have had something to do with him pulling out of a verbal commitment to play for N.C. State.
"I just wanted to get out and experience this recruiting thing because it's definitely a one-time thing and make sure I chose the right school that's best for me," Leslie said.
Wall, who eventually chose Kentucky, often had throngs of media around him and drew large crowds eager to see play.
"Just being around him as a close friend off the court, you get to see how to deal with different things, different schools and just how to maintain everything," Leslie said. "It had an effect on me, but I am my own person. ... I can't say I didn't learn anything from John, because I did. He went through it before I did. And now I'm going through it, and I know the ins and outs about everything."
The only visit he's taken is to Kentucky, but he said N.C. State is still on the list, along with Florida, Oregon, Georgia and Connecticut, and there is no leader.
Leslie made a surprise appearance Wednesday when Marietta, Ga., point guard Ryan Harrow signed his national letter of intent with N.C. State. Harrow said he wanted Leslie to join him with the Wolfpack.
In the meantime, there's basketball to play and a championship to pursue.
"I'm just going to approach it as this being my senior year," Leslie said. "I want to go out with a bang and I want to have fun."
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