Editor's note: This story originally ran on Aug. 5. It is being re-posted at the request of several readers.
Former Orono basketball standout Jon Leuer saw his dream come true when he was selected 40th overall in the NBA draft by the Milwaukee Bucks back in June.
That dream has been put on hold by the NBA lockout, as owners and players have been unable to reach a new collective bargaining agreement.
Leuer signed a ten-month deal with Germany’s Frankfort Skyliners Wednesday. He will join the team in mid-August and has an option in his contract that will allow him to join the Bucks when the NBA lockout ends.
Leuer had an outstanding career at Wisconsin. He averaged just 2.9 points and 1.3 rebounds per game as a freshman. but improved his numbers each year at Madison. Leuer averaged 8.8 points and 3.8 rebounds as a sophomore, starting 12 of 34 games. He moved into the starting lineup full-time as a junior and led the Badgers in scoring (15.4 points) and rebounding (5.8).
Leuer broke his wrist, which at the time was thought to be a season-ending injury, but returned after missing just nine games
Leuer paced Wisconsin with 18.3 points and 7.2 rebounds as a senior—leading the Badgers to the Sweet 16 where they lost to eventual runner-up Butler. He was a Wooden Award finalist and second team College Basketball News’ All-American.
Leuer was also a standout off-the-court.
He graduated with a degree in history, specializing in post-Civil War American history. Leuer, who was a three-time academic All-Big Ten honoree, was chosen as the keynote speaker for the Endowment Luncheon out of a pool of more than 800 Wisconsin student-athletes.
Patch.com caught up with Leuer to find out about his draft night reactions and a look back at his Orono and Wisconsin career.
Lake Minnetonka Patch: What was the feeling when your name was announced on draft night?
Jon Leuer: It was unbelievable. It is something that you dream about ever since you were a little kid, is hearing your name on draft night. All the hard work that I put in and everything that I had done up to that point, it was worth it. That is what it came down to
Patch: Your selection came after a commercial break, if I recall?
Leuer: My agent told me a few picks before. He called me up and said “you’re going to the Bucks,” so I knew, but I wanted to keep it a secret, even though I had a big smile on my face and my family knew and could tell. It went to commercial and when they came back, it was the first thing up, and Stuart Scott announced it. It was cool to have Stuart Scott announce my pick.
Patch: You had worked out for Milwaukee right before the draft in one of your final pre-draft workouts?
Leuer: Three or four drays before. Obviously, I had a pretty good workout, and they liked what they saw. Being right down the road from Madison, they got to see me a lot and know what I am all about.
Patch: Do you remember them being at any of your games more than other teams or do you not pay attention to what NBA teams are scouting your games?
Leuer: To be honest, there are so many people there that you never can pick out scouts or who is there. I don’t think that I ever really noticed a scout or GM there in my four years. You never really pay attention to that.
Patch: The NBA lockout is affecting the young players, like yourself, as much as anyone in the league. Normally, you would have played in the NBA Summer leagues in Orlando or Las Vegas, but they were cancelled. What have you been hearing about what is going on regarding the lockout?
Leuer: It is definitely a different situation to come out and right now, it sounds like they are a little ways off from reaching a deal. That is out of my control. The only thing that I can focus on is staying ready, so whenever it does end, I am ready to go and can put my best foot forward to try to help the Bucks win games.
Patch: You had a great career at Wisconsin, where you improved every year and made the NCAA Tournament. What is going to stand out as some of the highlights?
Leuer: There is a lot. It was definitely, an unbelievable four years. Obviously, beating Ohio State (which was ranked No. 1) last year and beating Duke my junior year and also winning the Big Ten championship my freshman year. We had the fans storm the court on all three of those occasions. That is definitely something, celebrating with your fans after a big win like that. It is something that you will never forget.
Patch: You also seem to be a very close team with you and fellow Minnesotans Jordan Taylor, Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz.
Leuer: Yes, definitely. There weren’t any cliques on our team or anything like that. Everybody hung out with everybody. The Minnesota guys would get together on Viking Sundays or Twins games and watch them. It was great to have that camaraderie with your teammates. It just makes for good chemistry on and off the court.
Patch: Do you think that helped since you knew those guys or had played against them?
Leuer: I think so, at first. Obviously, I was the oldest, so when they came in, you know them a little bit better. I played against Jordan ever since I was a little kid. Mike was in my conference and I played against Jared, so I knew them a little better coming in, but once you get to Wisconsin, everybody on your team is like a brother to you. So regardless of where you are from, we just had that chemistry that makes it a fun locker room and that is a big part of the game is having good guys in your locker room that you trust and like to spend time with.
Patch: How about your time away from basketball at Wisconsin. What was your time like there?
Leuer: It was great. There really is no better college town than Madison. The atmosphere there, the students, it is a great town to be in. There is a lot to do, and I loved it.
Patch: It was nice that it was far enough away from home, but close enough that your parents could make most of your games.
Leuer: Yes, definitely. They made it to pretty much every home game. I could go home on a long weekend, if I wanted. Just drive 94 and you are right back home. It was nice, like you said, having that ability to go home, but at the same time, you are far enough away that you feel like you are not at home.
Patch: Louisville was considered your top pick out of high school before you visited Wisconsin. Are you glad now that you ended up where you did?
Leuer: Yes, definitely. Wisconsin came in a little bit later, actually. I had pretty much thought that I had made my mind up almost. I took a visit to Wisconsin and just fell in love with it and knew that it was the place that I wanted to be as far as the coaches, the players, the campus and the school. Everything about it. I just knew that it was the right spot for me. I couldn’t be happier with my decision.
Patch: You had a great career at Orono. What stands out the top memories from there when you look back?
Leuer: That was great. Playing with my teammates; guys that I had grown up with since kindergarten. Sharing a lot of memories with those guys. That is the biggest thing that stands out is playing with my teammates who won a lot of game. Would have liked to make it to the state tournament, but our section was really tough. Playing in Orono, where I had gone to ever since kindergarten, I definitely have a lot of great memories from there.
Patch: Did you get a chance to follow them at all this year either through the internet or reading about them as they won the state title?
Leuer: Yes. That was awesome. I was so happy for those guys. I know a lot of them. I’d go back in the summer time in college and train there. Barry (Wohler) would open up the gym for me whenever I needed and he is a heck of a coach. I know that Orono is in good hand with him as the head coach.
Patch: If someone had told you six years ago when you were just developing into a player that you would be where you are now, what would you have thought?
Leuer: I would have say that this is what I want to do, play in the NBA, but I don’t think anyone else would have probably believed me. In my mind, I knew that if I worked hard enough, that I would have this opportunity. I’ve had a lot of good people helping me along the way. It is a dream come true, to be honest. To have the opportunity to play in the NBA, but it was definitely was a journey and a lot of hard work to get here, so I don’t plan on wasting it.