David DiLeo changes his game, still shooting his way to pro hoops career
Anyone who watched David DiLeo at Central Michigan in the last four years knows he is a great shooter of the basketball.
DiLeo, after all, made the most career 3-point field goals in Central Michigan men's basketball and Mid-American Conference history with 337 makes during his four years with the Chippewas.
After his career at CMU came to an end, DiLeo was looking to continue his career by playing professional basketball.
He will do just that after singing with UCAM Murcia in Spain, he and the club announced June 29.
"They didn't specifically mention the records I broke in college," DiLeo said. "But they definitely noticed my ability to shoot the ball and I would be a valuable piece to add to their team, especially as they made a bunch of new signings.
"They're putting an emphasis on shooting the ball and spreading the floor with our offense."
Changing his game
Back in April, DiLeo signed on to join RZA Sports, a basketball agency which has worked with some of the biggest names in professional basketball, and hooked DiLeo up with an opportunity to train in the postseason.
For about the last month, DiLeo has been working out with Impact Basketball in Las Vegas, Nevada, were players out of college can go train to prepare for a career in basketball overseas.
"(Impact) train a bunch of ages," DiLeo said. "... It's been good, I've changed my body, I've gotten stronger, quicker and more athletic. I've also fine-tuned my skills to get better as a player."
Especially in the last four years at CMU, DiLeo said his game has improved through the help from coach Keno Davis and the numerous assistant coaches he has worked with throughout his career.
DiLeo has improved his ability to not just be a stand-still shooter, but rather he has demonstrated his ability to shoot off the bounce and especially rebound. In his four years as a Chippewa, DiLeo totaled 733 boards and a season-high of 239 in his sophomore year.
Outside of the abilities on the court, DiLeo said the coaching staff has helped him tremendously.
"They continued to instill that confidence in me and my teammates," DiLeo said. "That's going to be what helps me down the road, that confidence and that work ethic that I'm going to have to have to continue to expand my game and as a player as my career, hopefully, continues throughout the future."
Off to Spain
DiLeo told Central Michigan Life his agent negotiated the deal with the club and brought it to him to sign. After talking it over with Ronnie Zeidel, the president of the company, and his parents — the deal was done.
With the coronavirus pandemic ongoing, DiLeo said he is unsure of when he will depart for Spain. But the league Murcia participates in, Liga Endesa, wrapped up its season on June 30. After shutting down in March, like many other leagues around the world, Liga Endesa, which hosts clubs such as Real Madrid and Barcelona, restarted the season in a "bubble," similar to how the NBA will proceed to restart its season later this month.
Murcia did not make the modified playoffs and the schedule on the team's website has not yet been updated for the 2020-21 season, which typically starts in late-August or early-September.
DiLeo said he hopes the league will have a plan ready for next season in the coming weeks. With the ongoing pandemic, there are a lot of questions whether or not the teams will have to live in a "bubble" or have a normal schedule.
Another question is whether or not the fans would be allowed into games. DiLeo said he has heard the supporters of the club are passionate about their team, he said he has been accustomed to that at CMU.
"They show up and show a lot of support," DiLeo said. "In the last four years, I've met a lot of great fans throughout our CMU and Mount Pleasant community, I love interacting with the fans and meeting new people.
"I'm excited to get over there, interact with fans, meeting new people and explore the city of Murcia."
'I have some background'
Playing professional basketball overseas has its challenges: missing home, the tough skill level of the game and, in some cases, a language barrier.
DiLeo said he took Spanish all four years at Iowa City West High School so he has some knowledge of the language. However, he did not use it at New Hampton School, a prep boarding school, or at CMU.
"It's been five years since I spoke it even a little bit," DiLeo said. "I have some background to it. I'm hoping when I start hearing some more of it, I'm hoping it refreshes the memory and I pick it up kind of quickly since I have that background for it."
DiLeo added he is excited for the opportunity to learn a new culture and relearn his Spanish skills.
When DiLeo makes the trip to move to Spain, it will be the first time he has been to Europe, to add another challenge.
DiLeo said he left the country twice. Both of his trips outside the United States were to the Bahamas — once before his freshman season for preseason games and once for the Junkanoo Jam his junior year.
Brothers for life
When DiLeo announced the signing of the deal, he said he had an influx of congratulatory messages from former teammates, many of whom play, or played, overseas.
Former guard Shawn Roundtree Jr. and former forward Cecil Williams were two guys DiLeo talked extensively with after the announcement.
DiLeo said he and Roundtree talked about when DiLeo would depart for Spain and Williams shared stories of his experiences playing overseas and what the process is like.
"I've been blessed to have great teammates all four years at CMU," DiLeo said. "I consider them brothers for life it's great to have so many reach out and congratulate me and just reiterate they have my back through everything."
DiLeo joins a growing list of former Chippewas who have made their way to the professional ranks by playing overseas. Roundtree, Williams both have experience overseas, former standout guards Larry Austin Jr. and Marcus Keene both spent time overseas. Keene is now dazzling at The Basketball Tournament in Columbus, Ohio.
Davis said he wants his players to use CMU as a launching pad to successful careers in basketball, or away from basketball, while honing in on the academic skills needed to lead productive lives.
“During the recruiting process, we talk about getting your degree, having success on the court and having professional opportunities beyond CMU," Davis said. "David is another outstanding example of a student-athlete that has accomplished all three.”
DiLeo said he texted back-and-forth with Davis when the deal was announced talking about what the team would look like.
Davis reiterated DiLeo's accomplishments as a Chippewa and shared his excitement of the future.
“We are excited for David as he starts his professional career in the Spanish First Division with UCAM Murcia," Davis said. " ... With all that he has achieved, we believe his best basketball is still ahead and we look forward to following his basketball career at the next level.”
'I felt supported, felt loved'
In his four years at CMU, DiLeo said he was able to visit elementary schools, meet season-ticket holders and meet fans.
DiLeo said he enjoyed meeting fans and having the opportunity to form bonds and relationships with the fans.
"I would want to say thank you for the great support all four years," DiLeo said. "We had some ups and downs in my four years, but I felt supported, felt loved, throughout my career as a Chippewa from the CMU and Mount Pleasant community."
Now, as he moves on, DiLeo said he will become a fan in his own right and continue to follow the team and keep tabs on his teammates as they navigate their lives.
"They're my brothers for life and I'll continue to follow them whether they're playing professional basketball or going into a different career," DiLeo said. "Some of the younger ones are still on the team so I'll definitely continue to follow the program.
"Like I said, it's been a great four years to help me get into this position in my last four years as a Chippewa."