A short bio of Jenning Leung:
My background is all over the place, Iâm Canadian-Chinese, born in the US, and grew up in the Philippines. I went to Brent International School Manila from grade 5 to 12. During my senior year at Brent, I decided (with a lot of guidance from my family and coaches) that I wanted to go to university in Canada and try and play at the university level. During my spring break of my senior year, my brother and I flew out to Canada where my former high school coach had set up a bunch of workouts with a few schools that I was interested in going to. What followed was one of the most stressful, jet-lag-filled weeks of my life! My brother and I jumped from school to school to do these workouts and it wasnât until my final workout with the last school (McGill University) that they decided to offer me a roster spot. Which, to be honest, was a huge surprise because they were by far the best school and basketball team that I had visited during that trip. The McGill coaching staff taking a chance on me meant so much and I knew before they even officially asked me that I wanted to play there. My first few years at McGill were really tough, but I eventually got the hang of things and had a pretty successful career there, playing 5 years and making incredible memories. After I graduated McGill, I had planned on doing a masterâs program in Canada, but felt like I should at least try and see if I could get the chance to play professionally overseas in Asia. I reached out to a bunch of people in the pro-scene in Asia and got lucky enough to sign with a team in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL). I played two seasons in the ABL and now in my third year out of university Iâve just started working as a coach in Singapore.
What do you think was the biggest difficulty for you as an international athlete trying to play college basketball?
I think the hardest part of the transition from playing at an international school to university basketball was adjusting to the speed of the game. It wasnât necessarily the physical speed of the game, but the mental speed at which everyone was performing at. When playing at the university level you have to be so mentally attune with what is happening on the courtâwhat a correct read is, what weâre trying to achieve on the court, what your role isâand it was extremely overwhelming at the start. However, controlling the things that are easy to control like being in great shape, playing with effort, and working extremely hard can help get you through the adjustment period. Itâs also really important to be able to take criticism and use it to get better, which I admit is not easy, but it is so important if you want to get better and be successful on the court.
What was one thing you werenât ready for once entering college or one thing you wish you prepared more for? (Could be athletically or academically)
Besides the mental speed of the game, I think I wasnât prepared for how to balance basketball and academics. The basketball side of my first two years at McGill was so much more of a priority to me compared to the academic side and this was reflected in my not-so-ideal academic performance. However, what made my situation even worse was I was also struggling on the basketball side of things! It was a really difficult place to be, but I think I was able to get out of it by working extremely hard on the court and in my academics. Another really important aspect of getting out of that âholeâ was by using little successful moments I experienced in both fields to springboard myself little by little to more successful moments. By doing this I think my confidence grew and I was able to achieve more and more. I wouldnât say I perfected the balance between athletics and academics (I was definitely more passionate about basketball), but I did recognize the importance of focusing more on academics and putting more effort into it.
Describe a typical college day for us (during the basketball season).
Not all days were like this, but I think the days that were like this encapsulate a busy mid-season and mid-school year day for a student athlete:
- 5:30am: Wake up, eat a small breakfast, have a coffee, get ready to go to the gym
- 6:15am â 8:30am: Practice
- 8:30am â 9:00am: 30 minutes to see physio, get extra shots up, or go to morning class
- 9:00am â 1:00pm: Go to classes, study, try to go home to sneak in a nap
- 1:00pm â 2:00pm: Back to the gym for an individual skill workout or individual film session
- 2:00pm â 5:30pm: Go to classes or study
- 6:00pm â 7:00pm: Back to the gym for a team film session (if we had a game coming up) or weight lifting workout
- 7:00pm â 11:30pm: Go home, have dinner, relax, study
Why did you attend the college or university that you did? What factors played the biggest role (location, team, coach, major, etc)?
In all honesty, I decided to go to McGill because they were the first team to offer me a spot on their roster. However, I quickly learnt that Montreal is a great city and McGill has a pretty diverse student body that made me feel at home. Another big reason why I decided to go to McGill was they were nationally ranked and we would get the opportunity to play NCAA D1 teams during our preseason in August. I think there is a misconception about the level of basketball at Canadian schools that they arenât as good as American schools, however getting an opportunity to compete against D1 schools and beat a decent amount of them was a big draw to me. The funding isnât as high for university sports in Canada as it is in the US, but there is still a lot of talent at Canadian universities. I took a lot of pride in attending McGill and competing against top schools from the US. I would highly recommend taking a serious look at playing at the university level in Canada, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life and Iâll always cherish it.