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Bryce Lienhoop isn’t the flashiest player on the Columbus East basketball team.
The 6-foot-6 junior prefers to do his work in a low-key manner, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t productive. Lienhoop has been putting up big numbers this season in leading the Olympians to their best start in 10 years.
“Bryce plays inside of himself,” East coach Brent Chitty said. “He does a good job of playing the game of basketball. He doesn’t try to make it fancy. He tries to keep it real fundamental. When you do that, and then you have teammates that can play, those (big games) are going to happen. He plays the game right.”
In Tuesday’s win at defending sectional champion Bloomington South, Lienhoop put up 23 points and 20 rebounds. He had 21 points and 19 rebounds in a season-opening win over New Albany, and double-doubles have been the norm for him this season.
“I feel like I’m playing good, but the main thing is, our team is doing good, and that’s what I care about,” Lienhoop said. “We’re just playing very unselfish, moving the ball to where it needs to be, playing help defense, which is what we need to do. We just need to work on our help rotations and talk a little more.”
Lienhoop leads the Olympians with 14.6 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks a game and is second on the team with 4.0 assists and 1.3 steals. More importantly, East is 7-1 for the first time since 2002-03.
“He’s smart, he sees the floor extremely well and he’s very unselfish,” Chitty said. “He finds open people. For Bryce, it’s always been more about trying to win as a team than individual numbers and things like that. I think his teammates recognize that, and they appreciate everything he does.”
Chitty has known Lienhoop was a special player since bringing him up to the varsity as a freshman.
“When we brought him up, we really liked what we had seen in the summer, and we were anxious to see how he would compete against older kids,” Chitty said. “So we kind of started him out slow, and as he progressed, he just really jumped into it and did a great job.”
Now, Lienhoop is the lone junior starting alongside four seniors in a veteran lineup.
“Bryce isn’t a real vocal guy,” Chitty said. “He’s a quiet guy, but when he does speak, people know.
“He’s a hard worker,” he said. “He’s a kid that loves the game. He’s very competitive. He’s a great kid to coach.”
Lienhoop played travel basketball with SYF (Sport Youth Foundation) out of Indianapolis last summer. He is receiving interest from Division I schools Kent State and IPFW.
“I think I’ve improved a lot on getting to the rim,” Lienhoop said. “I’m working on my decision making and getting rebounds better. Basically, whoever works the hardest is probably going to get the rebound on the offensive or defensive end.”
Although he’s shooting 50 percent from the field, Lienhoop has taken only two 3-point attempts this season and missed them both.
“That’s the thing that he’s working on — becoming a really good outside shooter,” Chitty said. “He can handle the ball, he can dribble it and he can pass it. He does real good around the basket. He’s working on becoming a multi-dimensional player.”
“Whenever he has the ball, people have to double-team him because he’s just that type of player, so he helps other people get open,” senior teammate Zach Martindale said. “With his length and everything, it helps with all the rebounding on offense and defense. He’s definitely a person that we’ll need if we want to go far down the road.”
Lienhoop hopes that’s a long road.
“First, we have to win sectional, but I think we have a very good chance of winning state,” Lienhoop said.
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