When Avery Leiderman was in third grade, her recreation league basketball program had a draft to assign players to teams.
If you’ve ever been in a school gym class, you know this experience can either be thrilling (if you’re chosen high) or absolute drudgery (if you’re one of the last picks).
The humiliation of standing around looking plaintively at the captain, imploring with your eyes to “please pick me!” is never a fun one.
Leiderman thought she was a pretty good athlete, so she was very surprised to not get taken until the fourth round.
“I was super small, like super short, and it was like they didn’t think I could play well because of that,” she recalled recently.
Fresh off that snub, Leiderman said, she worked very hard that season, and in the offseason, to get better in every part of her game. By the time the next year rolled around “I was the No. 1 overall pick,” she said proudly, with a smile.
“So that was kind of my first proof that I can get better if I just work really hard.”
Fast forward eight years and the Roslyn kid who was overlooked is very much visible, front and center, these days on the hardwood.
The 5-foot-6 shooting guard has been impressing opponents for four years now on varsity. As a junior Leiderman averaged 17 points per game and made more 3-pointers (57) than 2-pointers (50).
In her final varsity season, Leiderman has led the Bulldogs to a 6-3 start through Christmas and is pumping in 18.6 points per contest.
Her 28 3-pointers are the highest total in Nassau County, and Leiderman’s all-around game has improved to the point that she’s a good bet to once again be named all-county.
“She’s a kid who loves the game so much, and leads by example to the other kids,” said Roslyn coach Noreen Naughton. “She’s one of those kids who is a conduit to other players; what the coaches need done, she makes sure everyone explains it.
“She’s become such a terrific player.”
Leiderman’s basketball success is even more impressive considering she hasn’t had the “typical” hoops path; unlike just about every other prep star, she doesn’t play AAU and summer ball.
“I have loved going to sleepaway camp since I was little, and didn’t want to give up that part of my life,” she said. “And the rest of the year, I’ve really wanted to focus on academics more than sports.”
That focus has landed Leiderman an acceptance to Northwestern University in Illinois, where she’ll be super-close to a fellow high achiever, her brother Hayden.
Two years Avery’s senior, Hayden Leiderman is a baseball player at the University of Chicago and is a former basketball player as well.
“He’s my hero,” Avery said of her sibling. “We never really fought that much as kids, and when we played basketball I learned a lot. I attribute a lot of my success to him.”
As a freshman Leiderman struggled to find her place on varsity at first, she said, but Naughton said her skills were apparent.
“She was mainly just a shooter then but she could really, really shoot,” Naughton said. “Over the years she’s developed a much better scoring mentality, able to score from inside the paint and in other ways.”
With defenses keying on Leiderman more and more this year, she’s had to find a way to get through a variety of opponents’ strategies. Getting help from teammates Gia Patane and Daureen Abukaush, Leiderman has continued to lead the way and get buckets.
“It gets frustrating sometimes when the best defender on the other team is always on you,” she said. “But they want you to get frustrated, so I try not to let it bother me, and just fight through it.”
Leiderman, whose parents Marni and Darren were both scholastic athletes as well, said she hopes to study human behavior at Northwestern and wants to do something in the sociology/psychology arena as a career.
For the next few months, though, the human behavior she wants to study is that of her teammates, as she tries to help the Bulldogs reach the postseason for the first time in her career.
“It’s our last chance, as seniors, to make ourselves known and get there,” Leiderman said. “Me and the other co-captains, we’re really trying to do everything we can to motivate everyone and help everyone play their best because we want to make it really badly.
“We only have one more chance to do this.”