Sophomore Nick Lindner was selected as the Patriot League Tournament MVP after averaging 23.7 points per game over three tournament contests to lead the Leopards to a conference crown
One foul didn't bother Nick Lindner.
The second one, during the same possession of an intrasquad scrimmage, got him a little frustrated.
The third time it happened -- without a blown whistle in a matter of seconds -- was all he could take.
Then the 5-foot-11 Lindner, Lafayette College's sophomore point guard, got into a scuffle with 6-foot 9 senior forward Dan Trist and was kicked out of practice.
Looking back, veteran coach Fran O'Hanlon blamed himself.
"It was me," he said. "Whatever team I put Nick on in practice, a lot of times, wins the game. That day I put him against the other four starters. He didn't have as good of a team behind him as the other team. Now that competitiveness he has spills over, and he starts pushing Dan, and he gets into with him. I said to Dan, 'Nick can't hurt you. You should have walked away from him.' But Nick is so competitive, and he wants to win so badly. I wanted Nick to make it competitive, but I pushed him over the edge, not wanting to."
There were only a few minutes left in that practice, the first after the Leopards had won the Patriot League Tournament, before everyone gathered together again. Lindner and Trist immediately apologized and hugged, leaving no hard feelings between the two teammates.
"It showed what a competitive group we were, but it was just fun and games after that," Lindner said.
A little while later, once everyone else had packed up and left the gym for the day, Lindner marched into O'Hanlon's office to apologize to his coach as well.
"He was very upset with himself," O'Hanlon said. "I told him that I wished everyone was as competitive as him."
And as hard of a worker.
"I haven't had anybody work harder than Nick at the game of basketball. I have had some very hard workers, but nobody has worked harder than him."
-- Lafayette men's basketball head coach Fran O'Hanlon on Lindner
"I haven't had anybody work harder than Nick at the game of basketball," said O'Hanlon, in his 20th year at the helm. "I have had some very hard workers, but nobody has worked harder than him."
Knowing first hand what stands to happen when a player doesn't take a day off here and there, O'Hanlon, at times, had to escort Lindner out of the gym.
It's that work ethic along with his determination, leadership, ball-handling skills and jump shot that carried the Leopards down the stretch as they won six of their last seven games en route to their NCAA Tournament appearance.
On a historic day against defending league champion American when Lafayette set a PL title game record for field goal percentage (64.9 percent), Lindner poured in a game-high 25 points and was named the tournament's MVP.
Despite there being three seniors, all of whom are 1,000-point scorers -- Seth Hinrichs, Joey Ptasinski and Trist -- no one debated Lindner's importance. In fact Hinrichs sang his praises.
"He set an example for everybody, even the seniors," Hinrichs said. "When we were juniors and he was a freshman, he was always in the gym and wanted us to be in the gym. It bothered him when we weren't in the gym. What rubbed off on everybody was Nick's commitment and desire to be a champion. He continuously worked as hard as he could even when his body wasn't feeling the greatest."
After graduating from Lafayette, Lindner, who is from Doylestown, Pa., and went to Germantown Academy (the same high school as actor Bradley Cooper) has hopes of playing abroad professionally. However, he hasn't ruled out following in his parents' and siblings' military footsteps. His mother and father met while serving in the Air Force. His sister is in the Navy and his brother is in the Air Force.
"I do see myself doing it down the line," Lindner said. "I know I would prefer to be in the Army over the Navy or the Air Force. But if I were in the Navy, I would like to be a SEAL or a Marine."
O'Hanlon tries not to think about losing Lindner to graduation. Yes, he's that talented and that key to this team. But O'Hanlon knows the day will come when he has to say goodbye to Lindner, and if he does turn to the miliary, there's no doubt in O'Hanlon's mind that he'll excel there.
By Mandy Housenick | House on the Hill