High School Sports

State College’s Isabelle Leazier emerging as perimeter threat thanks to bond with father

When Chris Leazier was the women’s basketball coach at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, he brought his daughter, Isabelle, with him to the office on the weekends.

Isabelle Leazier spent the day at the gym, where she sat and watched the men’s team practice from start to finish. Then she watched her father lead the women’s team through practice.

She was only 4 years old.

“I thought it was pretty unusual that you’d have a 4-year-old kid come and sit through two full college basketball practices,” Chris said. “At that point, it was mostly just kind of humorous.”

Isabelle soon developed a passion for the game her father has coached at the college and professional levels, and she’s now playing for her father on the State College girls’ basketball team.

She has emerged as a 3-point threat for the Lady Little Lions early in her sophomore season, averaging 11.2 points in the team’s first five games while shooting 51 percent from the field and 34.4 percent from 3-point range. She’s contributed to a balanced scoring effort and the team’s unselfish approach on the offensive end this season.

Isabelle saw some time on the varsity team last year, but she needed to focus on getting stronger in the weight room and improving her 3-point shot to become a reliable contributor. The results have shown on the court early this year for Isabelle, who went to the gym three or four times a week during the offseason to run through 35-minute workouts with her father.

Each time, Isabelle fired 210 3-pointers, attempting 30 shots from seven spots around the arc. After taking 30 from one spot, she charted her makes, and by the end of the summer, she was consistently shooting about 50 percent. Her father knew that percentage would fall in game action, but the numbers showed progress for his daughter.

In the team’s second game of the season, Isabelle enjoyed a breakout performance with a game-high 19 points to lead the Lady Little Lions past Bishop Guilfoyle in overtime. She played with confidence in that game, hitting big shots and stepping up after the team’s leading scorer, Maya Bokunewicz, went down with an injury in the first quarter. A little more than a week later, Isabelle drilled five 3-pointers and finished with 15 points against Mifflin County.

“She’s a lot more aggressive this year,” State College teammate Elizabeth Czekaj said. “She’s not afraid to shoot. She’s making smarter plays for the team.”

Isabelle started to develop her knowledge of the game at a young age, asking to go with her father to the gym. She remembers watching practices and being the water girl during her father’s time coaching at Dartmouth. Chris has coached her teams since she was in third grade.

“He’s taught me everything I know,” Isabelle said.

Chris tries to be her coach at the gym and her father at home, but they’re always talking about basketball. They watch games all the time, too. Isabelle likes watching the UConn women’s basketball team and former State College standout Kyla Irwin. They have NBA League Pass, so there’s always a game on television.

“We’ll watch anybody,” Chris said. “We’ll watch the Pelicans play the Trail Blazers. We’ll watch any two NBA teams play.”

Isabelle often focused on the point guards and their decision-making growing up. She’s more of a combo guard with the ability to handle the ball for the Lady Little Lions when needed this season. Her father and coach is quick to point out she’s turning the ball over too much, adding that she still has a “long, long, long ways to go” as a player.

But she’s been productive so far at the varsity level after years of watching and playing.

“She’s always just kind of been mesmerized by the game,” her father said. “I don’t know what you can really attribute it to. She’s just been around the gym. She’s been around basketball players. She’s been around coaches. From a very early age, she wanted to be there.”