By Marty Simpkins
LOUISBURG — North Carolina State University’s 1983 national championship mens basketball team visited the White House May 9 after waiting for 33 years.
Quinton Leonard III, a Louisburg native, was a senior on the national championship team, but passed away before he could join his teammates at the White House.
His son, Quinton Leonard IV, made the trip from Palm Island, Penn. to Washington to be with the championship team in his stead as a 14-year-old.
“Quinton said it was the most thrilling thing that has ever happened to him,” Quinton Leonard III’s sister Martha Mobley said.
“He got to shake the president’s hand. He will never forget that moment.”
Leonard III was born in Louisburg and grew up on Leonard Farm. He didn’t get into basketball until he was 16 years old when he hit a growth spurt while attending Louisburg High School.
“Since I’m two years older than Quinton, I was the tall one for a while,” Mobley said. “Quinton grew up to 6-foot-8-inches.
Some of the high school coaches asked him to play for the high school basketball team.”
After playing for Louisburg High School, Leonard III stayed local and played at Louisburg College.
After his sophomore year, he was named as one of the top 100 junior college basketball players in the country, even while playing with an injured ankle in most of his games.
Leonard III wanted to continue playing basketball, but he also wanted to be with his sister, Martha, who was going to N.C. State University.
Leonard III also wanted to study agriculture and so he applied to take classes at N.C. State and was accepted.
Jimmy Valvano, the head coach of the mens basketball team at the time, heard that Leonard III was attending N.C. State and he called his mother, Marjorie, to see if he would be willing to try out for the team.
Leonard III accepted the offer, but dislocated his shoulder while playing in a pickup basketball game the night before the team tryouts.
Even with the injury, Leonard III still made the team as a junior for the 1982 season. However, he did not receive a scholarship for playing with the team.
A year later, Leonard III was a member of a national championship team.