Sam Ekstrom-Staff Writer
Four years ago, high school senior Kyle Lindbergh sat with Dordt head basketball coach Ross Douma at a Las Vegas breakfast spot during an AAU tournament.
Douma was recruiting, looking to replace graduating Dordt senior Logan Kingma.
The coach told Lindbergh he believed the then-17 year old could fill the shoes of Kingma – a thousand-point scorer in his Dordt career. No easy task.
Fast forward to the present day. Lindbergh has started nearly 100 games as a Defender and is the newest member of Dordt’s exclusive thousand-point club.
Looks like he met Coach’s challenge.
But it hasn’t all been a breeze. It took a while for Lindbergh, who grew up in faraway Margate, Fla., to get acclimated to his new environment as a freshman.
“I was kind of taking it all in,” said Lindbergh. “Just meeting as many new people as I could and making as many connections and just trying not to be overwhelmed with schoolwork.”
Lindbergh took refuge in the gym and weight room, building his strength and putting in long hours. When the conference season began, freshman Lindbergh earned his first collegiate start against Dakota Wesleyan and finished as the team’s leading scorer with 17 points.
In the conference home opener, Lindbergh made an early statement against rival Northwestern.
The 6-foot-7 Lindbergh rebounded the game’s first missed shot, then drove it coast to coast for a layup. Northwestern missed again on their next possession, so Lindbergh snatched up another rebound and took it the length of the floor for an “and-1” layup.
Two boards and two buckets in the opening minute.
“I just felt like I could hang with these guys,” said Lindbergh.
As a sophomore and junior, Lindbergh was a critical part of Dordt’s back-to-back Elite Eight appearances. Now, as a senior, he has even bigger shoes to fill than those of Logan Kingma. Dordt lost five seniors to graduation who accounted for 57 points per game.
Through this season’s first 13 games, Lindbergh is doing his best to fill that void by notching 17.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per contest, averaging just shy of a double-double and leading the GPAC in rebounding. Meanwhile, the Defenders hold an undefeated conference record entering play on Dec. 11.
“Kyle’s most valuable asset is his versatility,” said Douma. “As the game of basketball warrants players who have a complete game, Kyle is ahead of the curve as he is able to do many things both offensively and defensively.”
Austin Katje, Dordt’s only other senior, is also impressed with Lindbergh’s hot start to the season.
“His best quality is that he makes everyone else on the floor better,” said Katje. “He just makes the game easier for the rest of us.”
Lindbergh credits his success to having more opportunities to play in the post this season. He also surprises teams with his ability to use both hands.
“Most teams think I’m a lefty, but I’m actually a righty. I shoot left, but I’m actually right-handed,” said Lindbergh, who considers his signature move to be a right-handed hook shot.
With so much talk about the team’s loss of talent from last season, Lindbergh is ultra-motivated to silence the doubters and take this young team to new heights.
“There was so much question once [last year’s seniors] were gone,” said Lindbergh. “‘Are you going to be good or not?’ We just really wanted to prove everyone wrong. It was exciting to get a fresh start.”
“The past two years, we always knew how good we were,” Lindbergh continued. “We knew we were good. We knew we could compete at the national level. This team has so much potential that we can just go way outside that comfort zone.”
Coach Douma is proud to see the progress of the young man he recruited that morning in Vegas.
“Kyle is a coachable young man with a very compassionate heart,” said the fifth-year coach. “He enjoys basketball, but does not let it consume him. Kyle has grown spiritually and socially during his time here, and that has been very gratifying to see.”