Author: Taylor-Anne Esparza
With an NBA Champion living next door and a die-hard Laker fan for a babysitter, Occidental College center Conrad Liebowitz (senior) had no choice but to play basketball.
Liebowitz hails from Santa Monica, Calif. where he joined his first basketball team in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) at age ten. He says he began playing basketball after his babysitter brainwashed him by watching every Laker game on television and seeing his neighbor, Brian Williams‘ (Bison Dele), success in winning an NBA Championship and playing for the Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan.
Liebowitz is a self-proclaimed late bloomer. He tells the story of his middle school days when he was the only one among his friends to not make the All-Star team that got to meet the Los Angeles Lakers and play at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“I always use that moment as motivation,” Liebowitz said. “The next year, as a freshman [at Crossroads], I made varsity, but was the last man on the team. But by the end of the season, I started the last ten games.”
Liebowitz’s dedication dates back to the fifth grade when he would stay home during vacations to play travel ball. He persevered through missing out on fun getaways because he always had a great support system.
“My parents were always super supportive,” Liebowitz said. “I would have to go to Houston and Vegas and they always came and would give up their vacation. I really thank them for being by my side and advocating for me to follow my dream of playing college basketball. They’re the reason I’m here now.”
Liebowitz traveled across the country to begin his college career at the University of Rochester in New York playing Division I varsity basketball.
“We would fly everywhere [for games], we would get extensions because we would always be traveling. It was basketball oriented. There you were an athlete first and then a student,” Liebowitz said.
After his first year at Rochester, he transferred to Occidental with increased playing skills and strength. Liebowitz says it was a tough transition, not only because Occidental is academically centered, but because he received knee surgery and had to sit out his incoming season.
“I felt really lucky being able to contribute and play out of surgery,” Liebowitz said. “Most guys can’t play right after surgery, so I was really fortunate.”
Not only did Liebowitz come out of surgery ready and able to play, but he also went from playing a maximum of seven minutes in one of his five games at Rochester to starting every game he played in, except for one, at Occidental. Throughout his basketball career he continues to overcome obstacles and rise to the top.
“Conrad is the most dominant force on the team, we rely on him game in and game out,” JJ Friedman (first-year) said. “He’s a guy people don’t really want to guard. He’s been a really good leader for all of us freshmen coming in.”
Liebowitz’s teammates are thankful for his constant contributions to the team. He provides confidence in his team and persistent support.
“Rad is a great teammate to play with and an extremely hard worker,” Sam Stapleton (senior) said. “As a point guard I’ve never played with a big man that I trust more than him.”
Not only do Liebowitz’s teammates see his efforts, but head coach Brian Newhall acknowledges his success as well. Liebowitz constantly impresses those around him.
“Conrad has made steady improvement and is a pleasure to coach,” Newhall said. “He is a team player who is unselfish, team first, shares the ball and runs the floor well. He is a rare D3 6 foot 8 post player who is extremely athletic.”
After Occidental, Liebowitz hopes to play basketball overseas to fulfill his dream of getting paid to play professionally while enjoying the chance to travel. He also mentioned his plans to eventually own his own green business to accompany his major in Urban and Environmental Policy (UEP).
As the interview was coming to an end, fellow teammate Deshun McCoy (senior) joins Liebowitz to study. Before Liebowitz even lays eyes on McCoy, McCoy bursts out laughing as he grabs Liebowitz’s shirt. Liebowitz turns to look at me with a smirk on his face.
“You didn’t even know, did you?” Liebowitz asks.
Liebowitz stands up from his chair only to reveal that he is wearing a striped onesie under his sweats. Liebowitz proves himself to not only be an athletic, determined basketball star, but a humorous, fun-loving, cartoon-watching, onesie-wearing type of guy.
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