Bryce Lienhoop had a big season last year as a junior on a senior-dominated Columbus East boys basketball team.
This year, the 6-foot-6 Lienhoop likely will have to carry even more of the load for what will be a young Olympians squad. He is the lone returning full-time starter and one of only three returning full-time varsity players from a team that went 14-7.
“It’s my team in the aspect that I’ve been here the longest, but all these guys are capable of stepping up,” Lienhoop said. “It’s not like I’m going to have to do everything myself.”
Lienhoop did a little bit of everything last season, when he averaged a double-double. He led East with 14.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.7 steals a game and finished second on the squad with 3.0 assists.
That performance, along with his play over the summer, earned Lienhoop a scholarship to St. Francis University. He committed to the Fort Wayne school last month, two days after Columbus North senior Evan Henry committed to St. Francis.
“They have a pretty good business program and great coaches,” Lienhoop said. “I like every single coach there, and all the players there. I really fell in love with St. Francis.”
“It’s a great fit for him academically,” East coach Brent Chitty said. “It’s a great institution, and athletically, it’s a place that has won the national championship in their division. They think with the recruits they have coming in that they’ll be able to compete for it again.”
Although Lienhoop has played mostly inside the past three years, he’s trying to develop more of an outside game to complement his post presence.
“I’ve worked a lot on my physical game,” Lienhoop said. “I’ve gotten better and jumping higher and getting up and dunking the ball. I’ve worked on my outside shot and hope to do a lot more this season.”
“We feel that he’d earned everything he’s got,” Chitty said. “We think he can do a lot of things. I think he’s improved his outside shot quite a bit, and we continue to work on that. He’s a very unselfish player, makes people around him better and has a great, great basketball IQ.”
Now that Lienhoop’s college decision is out of the way, he can focus on having a stellar senior season.
“It feels great, but I want to enjoy the time I still have left here,” Lienhoop said. “I’ll feel a lot less stressed out, but I’m still going to play as hard as I can. Our goal is the same as every year I’ve been here — win the sectional and keep moving on.”