The change starts at the top for the Lynx.
Pat Lepper replaces
former coach Kirk Whiteman, who resigned in March.
Lepper comes to Lincoln College from John Wood Community College
in Quincy, where he served as the associate head coach last season.
He also played for John Wood in 2004-2006 before finishing his
basketball career at Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort
In addition to his coaching duties, Lepper also teaches business
courses at Lincoln College.
"It's been great," said Lepper. "Everyone here has been really
wonderful, trying to introduce me to people. The town of Lincoln has
been very friendly. It's been a great place to work and not just
coach, but also to teach. I'm excited about the student body and the
environment that I'm in. It's a great position."
As for basketball, Lepper is stressing defense to the Lynx so
far. Ideally, he'd like pressure defense and up-tempo offense to be
his team identity, but he admits it may be too soon to proclaim his
team's identity with any certainty.
"I think it's really too early to know just what our identity is.
But, as a coach, for myself, it's been defense," said Lepper. "We're
going to try to make the defense the stronghold of our team. It
comes down to the ability of our guys to try to grasp the concept.
"I think, through our (preseason games), guys have realized that
we are a defensive team, and that's what we can try to hang our hat
on. Hopefully, as the season moves on, our guys have that defensive
attitude that we're going to get big stops each game."
But the change this season extends beyond Lepper and into the
The Lynx are made up of two returning sophomores, two transfers
and 12 freshmen, amounting to a young team that must find chemistry
Lepper says his relationships with the newcomers are coming along
"It's good. Most of them are first-year guys. It's their first
time playing collegiate basketball," said Lepper. "But two guys, Sam
James and Desmond Rush, it's changed a little bit for them. So we've
built relationships with those guys too, let them know that those
guys are important to me. They've got to learn just as much as the
new guys. It's been good to have a bunch of fresh faces and some
guys who have competed at the collegiate level."
One of those freshmen is highly touted guard Aaron Simpson.
Simpson comes to the Lynx from North Chicago High School, which
he led to back-to-back state tournament appearances in 2011 and
2012. Simpson was named to numerous all-state teams last season
and came in third in the statewide Mr. Basketball voting.
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With Simpson an explosive scorer in high school, Lepper hasn't
shied away from thrusting him into a similar role for LC on offense,
while also challenging him to be a key to the Lynx defense and a
"For Aaron, we're asking him to do a lot. We are asking him to
score. He knows that," said Lepper. "But as our team mentality
shows, he is going to have to guard. Aaron has been a very good
off-the-ball defender. We're asking him to be a great off-the-ball
and on-the-ball defender. He's learning. He's trying to compete.
"Our team is looking at him for leadership, and he's learning how
to be not just a good leader, but a great leader. We're going to
utilize captain's leadership a lot this season. And Aaron's going to
play that role for us. He's got a lot on his shoulders, but we think
he's the type of kid who is mentally tough enough to handle that."
The Lynx will also have a local feel again this season, as LCHS
grad Jordan Gesner suits up in purple and white. Local fans may also
recognize Chris Davis, formerly of Springfield Southeast, and Andrew
Jordan, formerly of Peoria Manual, as familiar faces.
Lepper expects to employ a deep playing rotation, which should
help feed into the coach's desire for pressure on defense and
"Right now, we really don't know exactly what we'll get out of
everybody," said Lepper. "We're trying to play up-tempo. We're
trying to really get after it defensively and score in transition.
There's a couple guys that we have that we're pretty excited about.
I don't want to name anybody, but I'd say I'm excited. I think
there's 10 or 11 guys on this roster who can really find a position
where they play significant minutes for us."
The Lynx should be ready for their first game after a rigorous
preseason, with workouts starting soon after the players arrived on
campus in August. Practice began on Oct. 1.
"We did four days per week at 6 a.m. and every day was
different," said Lepper. "Some days would be weight training, some
days would be circuit training. ... It was kind of a shock to some
of our kids.
"Basketball practice started out Oct. 1. We started out with
competitive defensive drills, and now we're working on some
offensive stuff. We've tried to make it as competitive as possible."
[By JUSTIN TIERNEY]
Lincoln College men's basketball