Nick Lindner (above) is going to have to take a big step up as a leader this season following the graduation of three important seniors. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Rich Flanagan (@richflanagan33)
(Ed. Note: This article is part of CoBL's 2015-16 College Season Preview, which will run from October 2-November 13, the first day of games. For the complete rundown, click here)
Last year, Lafayette enjoyed one of its strongest seasons in recent history.
The Leopards finished the regular season 20-13, 9-9 in the Patriot League. They finished off the season winning three of their final four regular season games then steamrolling through the Patriot League tournament championship, their third league title in team history.
Lafayette finished off its first 20-win campaign since winning 24 games during the 1999-2000 season largely due to three outstanding, experienced seniors: Dan Trist, Joey Ptasinski and Seth Hinrichs.
The trio of Trist, Ptasinski and Hinrichs combined to score over 4,000 career points and were integral pieces to Lafayette’s postseason run a year ago. Trist averaged 17.3 points per game and finished off his career with 1,491 points. At 6-foot-9, Trist was talented forward who excelled in the mid-range game, consistently hitting jumpers from around 18 feet out.
Ptasinski, a left-handed sniper shot 44.7 percent from behind the 3-point line and hit a team-high 72 3-pointers last season. He finished his playing career with 1,105 points.
At 6-7, Hinrichs could play multiple positions and have success, especially from behind the arc. He averaged 13.1 ppg, and connected on 52 three-pointers as a senior, finishing his career with 1,535 points.
Head coach Fran O’Hanlon has his work cut out for him trying to replace those seniors.
“We lost a lot. Other than the scoring, it was the leadership. It’s a process, it’s going to take some time,” said O’Hanlon, now in his 21st season as the head coach of the Leopards.
O’Hanlon also knows how much of an example those seniors set both on and off the court, but he’s excited to see what this year’s team can accomplish.
“We have guys that have been through (a Patriot League tournament run), and they know what it takes,” he said. “They know what it takes and hopefully they’ll translate that to our younger guys and tell them how hard this is.”
The top guy who will have to lead the younger Leopards is starting point guard Nick Lindner, a Germantown Academy alum and an All-Patriot League selection last season.
During his sophomore season, Lindner started 31 games and finished third on the team in scoring with 12.5 ppg. Lindner averaged 23.7 ppg during the Leopards three-game run to the Patriot League tournament championship en route to being named MVP, and he’ll now take over an even bigger role as the team’s main leader.
Lindner, who led the Patriot League with a 2.6 assist/turnover ratio, is ready for the added pressure and expectations that come with being a team leader.
“I try to put a big part of it on myself,” the junior point guard said. “You do what you can control, and what I can control is playing hard and trying to make that rub off on the younger guys, to play hard, play with intensity. That’s what I hope to bring to the table, and those were the things I tried to bring last year.”
Lindner will be back in the starting point guard spot for O’Hanlon’s team, but finding replacements for Trist and Hinrichs in the frontcourt is next on O’Hanlon’s agenda.
After appearing in all 33 games and averaging 3.1 ppg, Klinewski is hoping his improved inside-outside game could make him valuable contributor to the Leopards success this season.
The 6-8 sophomore forward learned a lot from the three seniors, and hopes to put what he learned into action.
““I’ve said this a million times, it’s a dream come true to be there as a freshman, just coming in and the seniors teach me the ways, show me the ways of how they get there, the hard work it takes to win a championship,” Klinewski said. “They waited four years and I come in my first year and get it, I got a taste of it, I want to get back there and I want to make an impact on the team. I played 10 minutes, but a bigger impact.”
Another player to watch in the frontcourt is Musters, 6-10 senior. The center from Sydney, Australia has never been a big-time scorer, but he’s hoping what he has learned during his tenure and growth with the team will help him become a leader.
“There is a lot of onus on you in terms of teaching the freshmen the right way to do things and setting the tone for the program as a whole. Trying to get people on time to different places, making sure guys are always ready to go and go at 100 percent,” Musters said.
O’Hanlon is looking for a lot from these three players as well as guard Bryce Scott, who started 29 games and averaged 8.3 ppg last season. Scott is pegged to start at shooting guard for the Leopards.
Aside from Lindner and Scott, O’Hanlon has yet to name a starting lineup, but he is waiting to see who steps up and takes the starting spots.
“(Nick) certainly is (taking a lot of responsibility), and it certainly is great having a guy like [him] who has been through it and is a good player. And Bryce, too,” O’Hanlon said. “I don’t know who the three other starters are going to be, it could be seven or eight other guys, and it could change. I think we’re starting to learn, the young guys are getting there.”