Jason Guarente (@JasonGuarente)
When other kids were off playing rugby or soccer, Louis Bleechmore always wanted to be in the gym. It started when he was around nine. It was a full-fledged passion by the time he reached high school.
That’s when Bleechmore realized what it was going to take to pursue his dream. He couldn’t stay in his native Sydney, Australia. He had to travel to the United States.
Harcum wing Louis Bleechmore (above) committed to St. Joe's last week. (Photo courtesy Louis Bleechmore)
Four years ago, as a 16-year-old kid, Bleechmore left his world behind.
“The U.S. is just the place to be,” he said. “At the time I was a really raw talent and a lot of people didn’t regard me as that good. So I wasn’t playing on any high-level teams or playing against any high-level competition. As soon as I got the opportunity to come over here, I took it and ran with it.”
Bleechmore bet on himself. He believed he could improve and climb the college ranks. That bet paid off last week when he accepted a scholarship offer from Saint Joseph’s.
It wasn’t a straight line from Sydney to the Atlantic 10. Bleechmore went to prep school at Scotland Campus (Pa.) and junior college at Harcum before getting the attention of St. Joe’s coach Billy Lange and his staff.
“They didn’t play around,” Bleechmore said. “Once they realized I was a good fit for their program they recruited me really hard. Just showed a lot of interest. That’s something I appreciate. That separated them from everybody else.”
Bleechmore hopes to make an immediate contribution to the Hawks when he arrives next season. The 6-foot-6 small forward averaged 9.3 points and 4.1 rebounds with Harcum. His size and athleticism have drawn rave reviews.
"Louis Bleechmore is a budding 3-and-D wing who has a defensive-first mentality and who has no issue doing the grunge work,” said Tom Keller of ELITE High School Scouting. “He’s effective on the glass and has soft touch around the rim. He is able to make plays in the open floor. Bleechmore is an exceptional athlete who is a threat in transition to score above the rim."
Bleechmore is the third member of SJU’s 2022 recruiting class, along with guard Christian Winborne (Gilman School, Md.) and forward Rasheer Fleming (Camden, N.J.). He’ll have three years of eligibility for Lange, now entering his third year as the Hawks’ head coach.
Harcum associate head coach John Ball believes Bleechmore’s work ethic and playing style will help him find his way onto the court.
“I think he can contribute right away in some role,” Ball said. “Not just because of his ability to shoot the hell out of the ball. The kid can really shoot it. He does everything else. He talks on defense. He dives for loose balls. He takes charges. He goes and rebounds offensively and defensively. He can guard 1 through 4. He’s going to be an interesting player for them that they can put in a lot of different positions to help them win.”
Harcum said he received Division I offers from Mount Saint Mary’s, Mississippi Valley State, Tennessee Tech, Tennessee State and Bryant before choosing to play for Harcum. The pandemic complicated matters.
“As soon as COVID hit, the recruitment died off because they couldn’t go on visits, couldn’t travel, the coaches couldn’t see me as much as they’d like,” Bleechmore said. “Then they stopped recruiting me and started looking at some JUCO guys.”
Shortly after Bleechmore arrived at Harcum, Ball realized he’d end up getting the Division I scholarship that eluded him the first time.
“We knew he would outwork a lot of people to get that opportunity,” Ball said. “What level at Division I, we weren’t sure. It’s hard to project. We knew we were getting a kid who was going to come in and work every single day.”
Bleechmore’s journey is proof of how much he wants to succeed at basketball. Leaving home at such a young age was scary, and he endured his share of culture shock upon his arrival. He enjoyed different hobbies and used different slang. He’d say things his friends didn’t immediately understand.
While Bleechmore liked to take walks and explore, his teammates played video games in their rooms. The adjustment continues to this day.
The COVID-19 outbreak has made it impossible for Bleechmore to return home. He hasn’t been to Australia since Christmas break in 2019. International travel is closed there until at least mid-October. He hopes it will be reopened in time for the holidays this year.
“It’s tough,” Bleechmore said. “I’m not gonna lie. Over time it just fuels me more and keeps me motivated. It’s really hard to be away from family. I use it in a positive way, if that makes sense.”
Bleechmore’s dream is to play professionally. As he keeps moving up to higher levels, that possibility becomes more likely.
Every once in a while, another aspiring basketball player from Australia will reach out to Bleechmore and ask for advice. His response starts with the same message.
“If you’re passionate about something enough you’ll follow it no matter what it takes,” Bleechmore said. “That’s something I tell them. It’s not easy. I can’t say that enough. But if you’re dedicated, put in the work and stay locked in long enough, it’s possible.”
The dream took Bleechmore to the U.S., to Saint Joseph’s and maybe beyond.