Malik Leaks, Striving for Success On and Off the Basketball Court

                                                    Malik Leaks #24 Photo by Naomi Stukey


                                                 Malik Leaks #24 Photo by Naomi Stukey

Malik Leaks is a young man determined to succeed on and off the basketball court. He has become a responsible household figure while attending high school and dominating on the basketball court. Against the Crescent Valley Raiders from Corvallis, Oregon, he had a triple-double – 28 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. Malik is from Salem, Oregon, and plays basketball for the North Salem Vikings in the CVC (Central Valley Conference). His parents are Lorenzo and Heather. He has two sisters – a sophomore and three-sport athlete, Simone, and a younger sister, Laila.

Malik was raised in a low-to-middle-income neighborhood. He has childhood memories of getting along with all the local kids. There were kids of all ages that hung out in the area and usually there wasn’t much trouble. However, he does remember a couple of altercations that were scary.

“Our block seemed to be okay, there weren’t any fights or anything, but it was weird because the next block over the police would come sometimes. I remember two times that scared me a little. Things like gang activity, theft, and other things going on,” Malik said.

Malik attended Auburn Elementary School in Salem. He speaks highly of his PE teacher, Jan Florip. Kids usually remember teachers that had an impact on their lives one way or another. Malik remembers having fun during the grade-school days.

“My favorite teacher at Auburn was my PE teacher, Jan Florip. She always allowed us to play fun games – kept us active. She used to put on these baseball tournaments and four-square tournaments. It was a lot of fun,” Malik said.

Malik attended Houck Middle School in Salem. There were two teachers that he remembers during that time, Mr. and Mrs. Horton. Malik speaks highly of these two. They helped him with schoolwork. Anytime he had a question he could count on them for answers. If he was about to get into trouble they would have a talk with him and prevent the distraction. He’s very thankful that he had teachers like them. Kristine Horton was his social studies teacher during his eighth-grade year. I was able to catch up with her.

“Sometimes I was a little hard on him and definitely had high expectations. I knew that Malik had great potential – he showed a lot of promise, not just as an athlete but also academically. I wanted him to be prepared for high school and to be successful there. I hope Malik continues to excel on and off the court,” Kristine said.

Malik’s passion is on the basketball court. His dad, Lorenzo, played college basketball at OIT (Oregon Institute of Technology) in Klamath Falls, Oregon. He was a 6’2” guard that could shoot the lights out of the ball – a huge contributor to his team.

“My dad took me to a basketball clinic at the Boys and Girls Club when I was in third grade. I discovered something I enjoyed doing – I loved it and have been playing the game since then,” Malik said.

Malik’s dad works as a foster care provider, he also trains kids for basketball at Houck Middle School. His mom is a dental hygienist and is very supportive of the things her son enjoys doing.

“My dad trained me over the years – he showed me a lot of what I know. Different basketball skill sets. Mom and Dad also put education as a priority. They actually made me read for them at times. Homework was a priority for me when I got home from school,” Malik said.

Malik was blessed to have had the opportunities his mom and dad made possible. He played on some AAU tournament teams. In the eighth grade he played for ICP (Inner City Players) from Portland, a competitive tournament team. Salem Select and Salem Triple Threat were two others. The last two years he’s played for Elite 24 – a 17U spring/summer all-star traveling team from Portland.

This young man has also attended national basketball camps – the Syracuse Camp, 14C Camp, Phenom150 Basketball Camp, California Bears Camp, and the Santa Barbara Camp. Malik attended the Michael Jordan Basketball Camp – when he told me this, I was so jealous … wow! In my opinion, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time. What I didn’t tell Malik is that I had met Lebron James at the Adidas Big Time Tourney in 2003. I guess we’re kind of even.

“That was such a great experience – I actually got to meet Michael Jordan. He was involved in the camp and interacted with us during the camp. Every evening he would pick one kid out of the crowd to play him one-on-one. He never lost – played to win no matter what kid was playing him,” Malik said as he chuckles.

Everything was going great for Malik, the only obstacle he had faced so far was breaking his right ankle twice when he was in middle school. That was frustrating and it hurt him more not to be able to play basketball. He eventually healed and bounced back.

He ran into another obstacle that was a little bit tougher on him. A year and a half ago his parents decided to separate. Lorenzo and Heather had gone their separate ways. The kids would remain with their mom in the home and their dad would move out.

“That was really tough for me to handle. I have such a great relationship with my mom and my dad. I can talk to my mom about anything and I can call my dad up anytime – he’s there for me. It took me a long while to make that adjustment. I found a way to deal with it – I’ve moved on,” Malik said.

With his parents working long hours, Malik has taken on the responsibility of helping take care of his sisters. He cooks for them and cleans the house. He wants to set a good example for his sisters – protecting them and providing as much as he can for them. He cares a great deal for them – nothing is more important.

“I look after my sisters – especially the youngest one, Laila – she really looks up to me – goes to all my games and plays video games with me. It’s really important that I set a good example for her. I want her to be a good person and to treat people with respect,” Malik said.

Despite the separation Malik manages to keep in contact with his dad. His dad keeps that competitive spirit in him. He often plays one-on-one with his dad. That has helped him develop over the years in creating his own shot against anyone.

“My dad is 44 years old, but he is a tough player. He still has that fire in his eyes. He’s 6’2” just like I am and the same build. That makes things even when we go head-to-head. We’ve had some tough battles. One day I can take him and another day he’ll beat me,” Malik laughs.

Malik is now a senior at North Salem High School. He maintains a 3.35 GPA and has a goal to get a 4.0 in one semester. He loves the school he attends. It’s located close to the downtown area with plenty of restaurants or fast-food places to choose. He speaks highly of his teachers at North Salem.

“I truly believe that if you treat your teachers with respect, they’ll return the favor. Just be nice to them. One of my favorite teachers at North Salem is my English teacher, Mrs. Gordon, I’ve learned so much from her,” Malik said.

As a senior leader on and off the court, Malik encourages his teammates to make good decisions off the court – to him it’s important for them to stay out of trouble. He’s organized some barbeques at his house to create a team bond and some positive chemistry.

On the court he has a lot of experience. He’s the only returning senior that started every game last year. He motivates his teammates – shows them how to work hard to prepare for each game.

“I have two close friends that I hang around with, Caleb Roberts who maintains a 4.0 GPA and Jerrin Williams who maintains a 3.3 GPA. They are smart in the classroom and a big part of our basketball team,” Malik said.

This year Malik is averaging 24.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. He has scored 32 points in two games and 22 points in one quarter. He’s hoping to help his team become one of the top teams in the CVC and he believes they can play in the post season – possibly making it to the state tournament.

What some people might not know about Malik is that he has done some volunteering for charity. He has helped prepare meals for the Union Gospel Mission. The Oregon Food Bank was another place – he helped deliver food to needy families. Head Coach Jack Martino organized a trip the Salvation Army for the entire team – Malik was involved in helping feed people.

“Malik is a great kid – always stoic when he plays. I always say, you never know if he’s up 20 or down 20. You never know if he’s having a good game or a bad game. He just plays! He respects his opponents, teammates, teachers, and coaches. He’s one of the most talented players I’ve coached in my 20-plus years of coaching. Not often will you find a great player and equally great young man,” Head Coach Jack Martino said.

Malik’s goal is to do well academically and to play college basketball somewhere. He is currently exploring options. He would like to study physical therapy as a career – possibly becoming an athletic trainer.

Some colleges that know of him are Stanford and University of Oregon. Colleges that are very interested are, Eastern Arizona, Oregon Tech, Chemeketa C. C, Corban University, and Clackamas C. C. I’m almost certain that before the season is over he’ll have more knocking at his door.

Malik, what is your favorite subject in school?

I like Social Studies. I find the different cultures and ethnicities very interesting.

What are your hobbies?

I like playing basketball of course, exercising, watching TV, outdoor activities, and hip-hop music. I also like insects – catching gardener snakes – just love the outdoor nature.

Who is your favorite NBA team?

Los Angeles Lakers – I really like Kobe Bryant.

Who is your favorite college team?

I don’t have a favorite team, but I love the ACC Conference.

What are your two favorite moments?

One is winning the CVC title with Avry Holmes two years ago. And also, last year hitting the game-winning shot with seconds left against McKay High School. I split two defenders just short of the three-point line, leaned forward and let it go. The shot was important because it meant us going to the state playoffs.