Countdown to 2015–16: This season’s Lafayette’s captains a study in contrast, masterclass in effectiveness

Scott (left), and Lindner. (Photos courtesy of Lafayette Athletics.)

Lafayette coach Fran O’Hanlan calls Bryce Scott the kind of kid whose positive energy infuses a program.

That inevitably makes Scott, a 6–2 senior guard, one of the Leopards’ team leaders. Then there is Nick Lindner, a 5–11 junior point guard who bustles about his business with a quieter manner. This commands respect as well, while providing the perfect counterpoint to Scott — the dynamic a big reason Lindner and Scott were named team captains for the 2015–16 season.

Four Lafayette players graduated last spring, including three 1,000-point scorers, two of whom were named alongside Lindner to the Patriot League all-tournament team. After averaging 23.7 points over three games, Lindner took home MVP honors.

“Nick is the hardest worker I’ve ever met in my life, and the best player I’ve ever played with,” says Scott. “People follow him — the young guys, especially — because of his work ethic. He just carries himself the right way, and our team feeds off his confidence.”

Before helping lead Lafayette to last season’s NCAA tournament — the program’s first bid in 15 years — tales of Lindner’s work ethic were being woven from his four years at Germantown Prep, just outside Philadelphia. Lindner had begun hooping at age 9 — late, by many standards — but through playing on the competitive travel circuit, he fell in love with the game.

He had been born in Texas, the youngest of three children in a military family. Both parents were in the Air Force, and after pinging about the country, the family settled in Pennsylvania for his dad’s current posting, in New Jersey.

Lindner’s brother is in medical school with the Air Force, and his sister just returned from her first Navy deployment. Last week, Lindner saw her for the first time in a year. “My family isn’t that big on sports,” Lindner says. “I honestly don’t know where my love for them came from.”

When Lindner is asked whether he had love for the Sixers, growing up in Doylestown, a small borough some 30 miles north of Philadelphia, he immediately says ‘No’. Not the Sixers — I’m a huge LeBron fan, whatever team he’s on.

Lindner’s appreciation of King James took off when he made his fateful move from Cleveland to South Beach, five years ago. “He became the villain, and I like that,” says Lindner. “It gives you a chip on the shoulder. There’s his athletic ability and strength, and I don’t think there’s a better leader in the NBA. He’s been my favorite player for awhile now.”

Asked about Lindner’s choice of favorite player, Scott chuckles. “Yeah, definitely — Nick has that give-me-the-ball-in-the-last-second attitude.”

But where the comparison really sticks is in the grit shown. Should Lafayette lose a game, Scott says, Lindner will be in the gym the next day for five hours. At least. “He hates losing,” says Scott.

Lindner begins his assessment of Scott, the California kid, with an appreciation of defense. “He’s a really good athlete, and with his strength and speed, he’s a really good defender. Then on offense, his man can’t sag off or he’ll hit a jumper,” Lindner says.

Scott has made 75 starts in his first three seasons, including 58 over the past two years. In ‘14–15, he hit 51 threes, which ranked one behind now-graduated senior Seth Hinrichs for the team lead. Scott’s 32 steals and 3.3 rebounds last season both ranked second on the team, as well.

From Hinrichs, Lafayette’s team captain in ‘14–15, Scott learned how to be a leader. The two were very good friends, and lived together for the past two years. “On and off the court, I learned so much,” says Scott. “Seth had a humbleness, and an ability to communicate effectively at the exact right time.”

Scott sees traces of that in his own approach, now. He feels he is most effective, as captain, in his ability to communicate — to show empathy for what a teammate is going through at a given time. “I try to be encouraging,” says Scott. “That’s how you develop good relationships.”

“Bryce is a good vocal leader, and really positive,” says Lindner. “I can kind of yell at people on court, but he’ll pull them aside and give them positive feedback. We have a way of feeding off each other’s different approaches, and that works really well together.”

It fits into the framework in place at Lafayette, and it was a big part of what made last March’s run so much fun. Hinrichs and fellow departed seniors Dan Trist and Joey Ptasinski, all 1,000-point career scorers, joined with Scott and Lindner to form a starting lineup that had grown together over the course of several seasons. “It was really fun,” says Scott, “and that came out in the way we loved to play. It’s hard not to make that extra pass when you have that kind of dynamic.”

Lindner remembers witnessing that when he came on his recruiting visit. He’d seen about six other schools, but something about Lafayette gave him pause. “It was about how tight the team was,” he says. “I had a blast hanging out with them. You spend most of your time with the team. They’re your family for four years, so that sold it for me.”

Before Lafayette faced Bucknell in the Patriot League semifinals last March, there was a late-night chess session in the hotel lobby. Like the best moments involving family, an inherent, unspoken comfort. “It was really fun,” says Lindner. “You really remember those times. Hanging out the night before, then celebrating the next day, after the big game.”

“It was the experience you dream of as a kid,” says Scott of reaching the NCAA tournament. “That was probably the coolest thing: in Pittsburgh, before the Round of 64 game, we had a police escort everywhere. It’s everything you dreamed and more.”

Yes, Lafayette will be young this season. “But,” says Scott, who hails the talent of the five incoming freshmen, “the culture we’ve created is to expect to win. We’re not playing to be good in the future — or simply using this season to practice for what’s ahead. The goal is to defend our Patriot League title. We want to honor the culture in place.”

Game of life, with a twist—and shout. Twitter: @alleywhoops

Game of life, with a twist—and shout. Twitter: @alleywhoops