By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald
Chris Leonard came out of Purcellville, Va., in 1989 with a scholarship to West Virginia University as its first accomplished three-point shooter in men’s basketball.
“That was my thing,” the 6-foot-4, 185-pound guard said this week from Fairfax, Va., where he’s employed by that huge, wealthy county. Gale Catlett was his coach through 1992.
Leonard was strictly the long-range gunner on teams that posted records of 26-5, 16-12, 17-14 and 26-12.
Leonard completed his four-year career with an even 200 three-point goals and a total of 1,255 points. His remarkable percentage accuracy average is a school-record .417.
He played in 107 games, including 59 starts, and averaged 21.1 minutes per outing. He made 404 field goals in 875 attempts (46.2 percent), and 86 of 102 free throws (82.8 percent).
Ironically, Leonard also had an even 200 rebounds to equal his three-point shots made. He ranks No. 5 among all players in total three-pointers made.
“I spent hours upon hours of shooting practice from behind the line,” Leonard said. “It was tedious work out there and not really fun.”
But he recommends to youngsters to really work at it if they want to be successful at three-point shooting.
Catlett waxed all he could get out of Leonard.
“The three-point shot really brought a lot of players into the mix in regards to strategies for college,” Leonard told WVU’s John Antonik for his excellent story last year on the 25th anniversary of the three-point shot.
“They were still trying to figure out how to utilize it (when he was playing). But it was this weapon now that you got the extra point if you shot if from behind that line and colleges were trying to scramble to get as many kids as they could who could do that.”
Leonard said it’s no fun playing 1-on-1 or 3-on-3 in basketball practice. “I came to (WVU) campus with the ability to shoot the threes,” he emphasized. “But the coaches really helped me.”
Leonard, a graduate of Loudon Valley High School, played in one NIT and three NCAA tournaments as a Mountaineer. “I really enjoyed very much my years at West Virginia,” he said. “I left with so many fond memories.
He got a bachelor’s degree in sport management and a master’s in public administration. “These have helped me tremendously in my chosen career,” said Leonard. He has a well-paying job as the director of the department of neighborhoods and community services for Fairfax County, Va.
Leonard’s wife Stacie also has two degrees from WVU. She is teaching chemistry in area high schools.
The Leonards have three daughters: Megan, 15; Ashley, 13; and Abby, 10. All three already are playing basketball.
“I couldn’t be happier that they’re athletes,” Chris said.