McALLEN — No shot was safe when playing against Edinburg Economedes this season. Jaguars junior Ray De Leon helped make sure of that.

The Economedes forward was a game-changer this season as he built a highlight reel of chase-down blocks, averaging 2.1 per game. He also came away with 4.1 steals each time he touched the floor, earning the title of The Monitor’s 2020-21 All-Area Boys Basketball Defensive Player of the Year award.

“I feel like no one is going to score on me. Every time I’m guarding somebody, I’m like, ‘I’m about to get cookies on you. I’m about to block you,’” De Leon said. “I’m not really scared to guard anyone.”

From guarding the other team’s top scorer on the perimeter to battling inside against premier posts, the 6-foot-2 De Leon was everywhere defensively for Economedes.

De Leon often sprinted down the court to send what seemed like an easy layup for the opposition off the backboard or into the stands.

“I use my length to my advantage. On chase-down blocks, when I was frustrated or something, I would just try to send the ball as far as I could. I’ve been attempting chase down blocks since seventh grade, so that’s how I got good at it,” he said. “I have long arms so I’m always in deny or trying to tip the ball every time someone passes it, and it really works out for me because of my length.”

Edinburg Economedes’ Raymond Deleon (2) drives passed McAllen Rowe’s Emiliano Ramirez (14) in a non-district game at Edinburg Economedes High School on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

His defense helped Economedes build a 16-8 overall record and get back into the postseason after a one-year absence.

“I knew this junior year was going to be big. A lot of people doubted us because last year we only won three (district) games,” De Leon said. “I feel like it was an underdog mentality that all of us had. We wanted to prove everyone wrong, so it was just an underdog mentality type of year.”

De Leon finished in the top five in the Rio Grande Valley in both steals and blocks per game, and proved to be a beast on the block by averaging a team-high 9.6 rebounds,

He wasn’t bad on the offensive end of the floor, either. De Leon averaged 27.3 points per game and eclipsed the 1,000-career point mark during the regular season.

“I guess I’m pretty proud of myself because I put in work. I don’t just work on offense, I work on my strength and my agility, so I could be good at defense,” he said. “I take pride in both sides of the ball.”

Next year, he’ll lead an Economedes team with 10 returning players on its roster. De Leon said he’s ready to elevate his game once again as the Jaguars hunt a district title during his senior season.

“I’m probably going to go for the MVP next year, for sure, and district champs. I feel like we can do it because we got a really good group of guys and everybody believes in each other,” he said. “We’re like one big family. It feels like a movie almost. We love each other and I feel like we can go far.”

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