Having one’s jersey retired is among the highest honors that can be bestowed upon any athlete. Next Wednesday, January 29, prior to the men’s basketball game against Green Bay, two of the best players in Valparaiso men’s basketball history, Bruce Lindner and Bryce Drew, will become the first former Crusaders to earn that honor. The #24 jersey, which both Lindner and Drew wore during their careers, will be raised to the rafters of the ARC in a pregame ceremony and will be the first number officially retired by the Valpo men’s basketball program.
Lindner starred for the Crusaders from 1967 through 1970. One of the best scorers of his era, he established many school records that have stood for decades. Lindner enjoyed perhaps the best season in program history as a senior in 1969-70, setting Valpo's single-season records for points (725), points per game (27.8 ppg), field goals made (274), field goals attempted (589) and free throws made (177) and earning conference MVP honors. Although he produced numerous high-scoring games, one game in particular stands out as his finest, a 51-point performance against DePauw that remains the highest single-game point total in Crusader history.
While Lindner only played three seasons for the Crusaders (as freshmen were ineligible at that time) and played prior to the 3-point shot, he still ranks among Valpo’s career best in a number of categories as well. His career average of 19.5 ppg still is the best in Crusader history, while his 1,539 career points scored rank seventh. He also ranks third in Valpo history in free throw percentage (85.2%), third in free throws made (391) and seventh in field goals made (575). As a junior, Lindner helped Valpo earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament, where they defeated Concordia (Ill.) in the Great Lakes Regional before falling to Illinois State.
24 years after Lindner took off the #24 jersey for the final time as a Crusader, Drew pulled it on for the first time to kick off an outstanding career from 1994-98. A four-time All Mid-Continent Conference honoree, Drew was Newcomer of the Year as a freshman and later twice earned Mid-Con MVP honors. He especially stood out during the conference tournament, earning All-Tournament Team honors each of his four seasons and picking up three Mid-Continent Conference Tournament MVP awards. Drew’s career culminated as a senior by being named a Third Team All-American by the Basketball Times.
Drew led the Crusaders to four Mid-Con regular season championships, four tournament titles and three trips to the NCAA Tournament. Drew, the career leader in points (2,142), three-point field goals (364) and assists (626) at Valpo, etched his name into the American consciousness in 1998 when he hit “The Shot” in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to beat Ole Miss. The play, in which Drew caught a tip pass from teammate Bill Jenkins off a full-court feed from Jamie Sykes, won Drew an ESPY award and gave Valpo its first Division I NCAA Tournament win in school history, propelling the Crusaders to the Sweet Sixteen.
Drew also excelled internationally during his time on the court with the Crusaders, playing for the gold-medal winning Team USA at the World University Games in 1997. Following his collegiate career, Drew again made school history when the Houston Rockets drafted him with the 16th pick in the 1998 NBA Draft, marking the first time a Crusader had been chosen in the first round and kicking off a six-year NBA career.