VALPARAISO | Before Bryce Drew launched 3-pointers from all over the Athletics-Recreation Center, Bruce Lindner did the same in the late '60s.
The problem for the Portage native is that while Drew shot up the scoring charts because of his long distance prowess, Lindner played in an era when the 3-point shot was nothing but a dream.
Despite every basket counting as just two points, Lindner still racked up an impressive senior season where he scored 725 points, by far the most in any single season in Valparaiso history.
Both Lindner and Drew will be honored tonight as their No. 24 will become the first number officially retired by Valparaiso in a ceremony before a key Horizon League game against first-place Green Bay.
“I was very excited and thrilled when (Valparaiso director of athletics) Mark LaBarbera told me that they were retiring Bryce’s number,” Lindner said. “I was ecstatic when Mark told me that Bryce said we should share the number. I had a good career, but no one remembers anyone that far back. It’s quite an honor.”
Lindner starred at Portage High School under Harold Cox, scoring 566 points in 23 games during the 1965-66 season. He then began playing for the Crusaders under Gene Bartow and ranks seventh on the all-time scoring list with 1,539 points. Lindner held the record for 23 years until Tracy Gipson passed him in 1993. Over the years other players such as Dan Oppland, Lubos Barton, Raitis Grafs and Ryan Broekhoff have eclipsed Lindner’s mark, and the longtime season ticket holder has watched them all.
“I’ve loved watching the teams mature over the years,” Lindner said. “I loved watching the Valpo kids like Todd Smith, Scott Anselm and Mike Jones. I’ve been very active following the team. My wife (Marilyn) is as big of a fan as I am. This is exciting.”
Drew will be honored as well during the pregame ceremony, but the third-year coach has had difficulty allowing himself to enjoy the moment as the Crusaders are preparing to face the Phoenix. Green Bay (17-3, 7-0) is the best team in the Horizon League this season, but may be shorthanded after all-league performer Alec Brown suffered a shoulder injury during Sunday’s win over Detroit.
Regardless if Brown plays, Green Bay is led by Keifer Sykes. The junior guard is the favorite for Horizon League Player of the Year and is averaging 20.8 points per game. Sykes had 31 points and six assists against the Crusaders in the conference semifinals last season.
“I feel very blessed to have had great coaches and great players to play with and to be able to enjoy this type of evening,” Drew said. “At the same time, I’ve been really busy with the game. Green Bay is an excellent team. They’ve shot the ball extremely well this season. There’s a reason they’re 17-3.”