Patriot League spotlight: Lafayette leans on Nick Lindner's ability to handle pressure
He was named Patriot League Tournament MVP last season, averaging 23.7 points in three games to lead the fourth-seeded Leopards to the title, which earned them an automatic NCAA bid.
He will likely have to do more of the same now, seeing as Lafayette lost seniors Dan Trist, Seth Hinrichs and Joey Ptasinski, who combined to average more than 40 points a game last season. And while the expectations for the team are not high – the Leopards were picked sixth in the coaches’ preseason poll, everyone seems to believe that Lindner, an All-PL preseason first-teamer, can handle an increased burden, while taking on his position’s usual responsibilities.
He is, like Lafayette coach Fran O’Hanlon, a Philadelphia point guard. O’Hanlon played at St. Thomas More in that city and later Villanova, graduating in 1970 and earning a spot in the Wildcats’ Hall of Fame some 22 years later. Lindner, a native of the Philly suburb of Doylestown, played at Germantown Academy.
“It’s definitely a great mesh,” said Lindner, who in all averaged 12.5 points and 5.2 assists last season. “I think he understands where I’m coming from.”
And vice versa, seeing as the old point guard asks a lot of those who play the position under him — and asks in no uncertain terms.
“I know I’ve had point guards come back and say, ‘You know, it’s hard playing for you,’” O’Hanlon said. “Hopefully I helped make them better.”
Lindner would have to admit that he does.
“I hope no one’s harder (on point guards) than he is,” he said with a laugh, “but I think he does it for great reasons. He’s a fantastic coach. We’re lucky to have him.”
Five more things to watch in the Patriot League this season:
Lehigh and Bucknell topped the coaches’ preseason poll, with 156 and 150 points, respectively. The Mountain Hawks, who earned 12 first-place votes (to eight for the Bison), return their top five scorers, headed by center/forward Tim Kempton Jr., who was named league MVP last year and accorded the same honor this preseason. “They have all the pieces to be great,” Boston University coach Joe Jones said. Bucknell, which has won four of the last five regular-season titles, has all five starters back, including all-PL guard Chris Hass. BU and Army were picked to finish third and fourth, respectively, but the Terriers will be without standout guard Cedric Hankerson (ACL tear) until at least early December. And while the Cadets return their entire starting lineup, coach Zach Spiker puts very little stock in preseason prognostications. “I think preseason polls — what’s the most polite way to say they’re useless?” he asked.
Mark Adams' take: Exit Dave Paulsen for George Mason. Enter former Pat Flannery assistant at Bucknell, (2003-08) Nathan Davis who was recently the head coach at Randolph Macon where he won 78% of his games. ... Bill Carmody comes to Holy Cross in what appears to be a match made in heaven. Carmody is highly respected in the profession as he set win records at both Princeton and Northwestern.
Nathan Davis returns to Bucknell as the head coach, succeeding Paulsen. Davis, the head man at Randolph-Macon the last six seasons, previously served as a Bison assistant under Pat Flannery from 2003-08, a stretch that saw Bucknell win back-to-back PL titles and register a pair of NCAA wins, most notably an upset of No. 3 Kansas in 2005. “It’s not every day you get to take over a team that’s got really good talent left behind,” Davis said. Besides Hass, the PL’s third-leading scorer last season (16.0) and a preseason all-league choice, the Bison boast sophomore center Nana Foulland (10.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg), among others.
Mark Adams' take: This is a tough league with a lot of returning shooters.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
The 6-10 Kempton, son of a former NBA player, averaged 15.3 points and a league-leading 8.7 rebounds last season. “He’s a handful,” Jones said, “because he’s a big kid who plays very hard. He’s very skilled, can play inside and out. … He’s a load.” Adding to opponents’ headaches is the fact that Kempton has such a strong cast around him, led by sophomore point guard Kahron Ross, who averaged a PL-best 5.8 assists in 2014-15 and was named the league’s Rookie of the Year. “You let him play one-on-one in there (in the paint), you could be in a lot of trouble,” O’Hanlon said of Kempton. “And if you have to go down and double him, he’s good enough, he finds some really good players around him.”
Mark Adams' take: Kempton is not the only weapon for Dr. Brett Reed as Austin Price and Kahron Ross are returning along with the top 6 scorers from last season. These guys will be really good!
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Joining Kempton, Hass, Lindner and Hankerson (15.9 ppg last season) on the preseason all-league team is American guard Jesse Reed, who averaged 14.3 points and five rebounds for an Eagles club that lost to Lafayette by two in the conference tournament title game. Reed was an all-PL third-teamer last season, as was Army guard/forward Kyle Wilson, the league’s leading scorer in ’14-15 at 17.5 points a night. Cadets forward Tanner Plomb (15.8 ppg) was an all-league second-teamer last season. BU sixth man Eric Fanning, a 6-5 junior guard, averaged 15.4 points for the Terriers.
Mark Adams' take: Bucknell can really stretch a defense and with Nana Foulland returning in the middle. Foulland was Patriot League All Rookie Team (1st since 2011) last season. The big Bison led team in RPG (5.4) BPG (1.1) FG% 54.9) and was the second leading scorer (10.2PPG). This freshman finished strong averaging 13.4PPG, and shot 58%FG over his last nine games. ... Colgate sharpshooter Austin Tillotson and his gaudy 41.5% 3pt shooting touch just might catch your eye.
GAMES TO WATCH
The American Sports Network will broadcast four Patriot League games: Bucknell at Loyola on Jan. 20, Holy Cross at American on Jan. 24, Lehigh at Bucknell on Feb. 10 and Army at Boston Univeristy on Feb. 23.
Mark Adams' take: It's basketball season!
Vote: Who is your choice to win the Patriot League?
Above: Lafayette will have an uphill battle to repeat as Patriot League champions. (Courtesy Lafayette Communications)