Growing up, persistence might have been the best friend Ervin Leavy Jr. had. And for good reason.
Cut from the Gundry Elementary and Bryant Junior High School basketball teams not once or twice, but five times, between grades six and 10, the now University of Michigan-Flint staffer finds himself one of 10 inductees of the Greater Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame's Class of 2023. The newest class brings the total membership in the GFASHOF to 311 individuals and 85 teams since the hall's first class was inducted in 1980.
Leavy, who is the assistant director of facility operations within UM-Flint's Student Affairs' Recreational Services, is also a 2018 Greater Flint African-American Sports Hall of Fame inductee.
"It is a great feeling to be recognized by my community for such a prestigious award, I am very humbled by everything that is happening," Leavy said. "Being from the Flint area shaped me as a player and a person by putting me through adverse situations at a young age. I was a kid who got cut from my school basketball teams five years in a row, grades six through 10. Persevering through those difficult times when in my heart I knew that things were not fair made me work harder to perfect my skills."
After finally making the roster of Flint Central High School's junior varsity team as an 11th grader, Leavy finally made the "big time" his senior year, joining a Central varsity team that had already captured back-to-back state Class A titles. For his part, he would go on to score 21 points in the 1984 state championship game against Detroit Southwestern.
He followed that performance with two seasons at Mott Community College where he and the men's basketball team reached the Junior College State Tournament championship game in 1984 before winning the title in 1985.
In 1986, Leavy transferred to Central Michigan University and as team captain, led the team to the 1986-87 Mid-American Conference Championship. He earned the nickname "Lightning" and was CMU's Man of The Year in 1986, a 1987 CMU Club of Greater Flint Senior Athlete Award recipient, was named First Team All-MAC in 1987, and was included on the 1987 All-MAC Tournament team. His 1,003 points at CMU rank him 34th on the school's all-time scoring list.
He went on to be drafted by the NBA's Chicago Bulls in 1987. Although he didn't make the final roster, he did get to play alongside the legendary Michael Jordan, and fellow rookie Scottie Pippen, during training camp that season. He would depart Chicago for a year abroad, playing semi-professional ball in Singapore for one summer before returning to CMU to complete his bachelor's degree in applied arts and recreation. He earned a master's degree in arts and technology from UM-Flint in 2011. Leavy has worked at UM-Flint since 2002.
"Looking back on my basketball career, what stands out to me now is getting recognition for the work that I put in many years ago," said Leavy. "I remember the days of putting myself through grueling workouts at 6 a.m. alone to try and perfect my skills when nobody was around watching. I learned the importance of discipline throughout the entire process.
"Exceeding the expectations of those who did not believe in me still stands out. Getting cut from basketball teams five years in a row taught me to make fairness and equality a top priority when evaluating others for opportunities. My actions in life reflect these important values today."
Lindsay Knake is the Communications Coordinator for the UM-Flint Division of Student Affairs. Contact her with any questions, comments, or ideas about the DSA newsletter, social media, events, and communications.