It's In The Genes Like His Father, Dragons' Lehmann Is Able To Score From Long Range

Posted: November 21, 1989

All Todd Lehmann can remember about the old American Basketball Association - yeah, the one with the much-discussed red, white and blue ball - is that his father, George, always looked great in the layup line.

You see, Todd would watch the warmups, "Then I'd fall asleep."

That's understandable. Todd was barely 5 when George finished a seven-year NBA and ABA career with the Memphis Tams in 1973-74.

This, however, might not be understandable: Todd, a 5-11 senior guard from Riverside, N.J., is a Drexel University tri-captain and has made 39 percent of his career three-point attempts, but he remains the family's second-best shooter.

If you're doubtful, check out the father-son sniping at St. Peter's grade school, just a three-block walk from the Lehmanns' home.

George, 47, takes no prisoners.

"We do a thing called the 300 Series," said Todd, who averaged 16.3 points and 6.8 assists per game last season. "It's 300 jump shots from all over. It consists of four sets of 25, then four sets of 35, then we finish with 60, with some three-pointers. We alternate back and forth. There's a lot of stopping and starting.

"Several times, he's missed only one shot. Usually, it's been one of the last five. This isn't a once-a-month thing. It's pretty much a seven-days-a- week thing in the summertime. Almost every day, he's within five misses of 300. Not too many people can outshoot him, not for long periods of time. When I'm rebounding for him, it's so easy. Just stand under the net. When I shoot, he has to run around a little. The least I've missed has been 28.

"I can't remember the number of starts, but there are quite a few. I mean, I'll shoot five, then he'll shoot five, then I'll shoot five . . . What makes him so amazing is that he makes so many despite all the stops and starts. The first one each time is usually the danger shot, until you get your rhythm going again. He's amazing, but I'm used to it now."

As a youngster, Todd Lehmann was often asked by classmates, "Was your dad the professional basketball player?" Even now, he said, neighborhood youngsters occasionally will pop the same question.

George Lehmann, who performed scholastically at Camden Catholic, played 66 games with the St. Louis-Atlanta Hawks in the 1968 and '69 seasons, and averaged 3.2 points. He then moved on to the ABA, and played for Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Carolina and Memphis. He had a 13.7 career scoring average in the ABA, and set league records for points in a quarter (27) and three-point field goals in a season (154 in '71 with Carolina).

Meanwhile, if kids ask - or adults, for that matter - what it's like to be George Lehmann's son, Todd's answer, in essence, is, "Couldn't be better."

Todd said that he, older brother Sean (more football-oriented) and younger sister Nicole (junior guard for North Carolina State's basketball team) were ''forced in no way" to play basketball.

"My dad had the keys to St. Peter's gym. Used it as his personal workout place throughout his career," Todd said. "My sister and I would go with him when we wanted. He'd work with us when we wanted. Once we made up our minds to

put the time and effort into basketball, he helped us in every possible way.

"He taught us everything, with the emphasis on ballhandling and being a team player. I'm proud to have him as my father. I'd be proud if he knew nothing about basketball. But since he does, I know how lucky I am."

Incredibly, Todd and Nicole, both of whom are products of Holy Cross High in Delran, N.J., scored their 1,000th career scholastic point on the same night.

"We were both playing Cinnaminson," Todd said. "We were home, my sister's team was away. We both had 10 points in the first half. We both hit 1,000 on a foul shot. My dad was at my game. My mother (Joyce) was at my sister's. When I hit 1,000, I gave the ball to my dad and he hurried down the road to my sister's game. She'd already scored her thousandth."

Then there was the night Drexel coach Eddie Burke happened to catch a Holy Cross game.

"Truthfully, I was there to see somebody else on Todd's team," Burke said. "One of my former assistants, Billy McFadden, had asked me to watch the son of a business associate. I saw Todd and said, 'Holy mackerel, where have we been?' He didn't shoot much that game. He was sick. But I loved the way he handled the ball and ran the show.

"We initially recruited him just for his point-guarding. But he has that added benefit of being a point guard who can shoot it. When (ex-assistant) Pat Flannery went back over to see Todd, they were playing John F. Kennedy of Willingboro, which was really good that year. Todd put on a shooting show, shot like 15-for-17 from the floor."

In the past two seasons, of course, the Dragons were renowned for having one major star and many helpers. Guard Michael Anderson and forward John Rankin were The Man in '88 and '89, respectively.

Now, the look is different as Burke attempts to rebound from his fourth losing record in 12 seasons (180-158 overall) and make an impact in the muddled East Coast Conference race.

Lehmann and sophomore Michael Thompson will be the guards. Cardinal O'Hara's Chris Arizin (his father, Paul, is also rather famous) will be joined in the frontcourt by forward Jonathan Raab and center Brian Raabe. Forwards Dan Leahy and Arthur Clark, guard Clarence Armstrong (Chichester High) and 6-10 redshirt freshman Jim Fenwick also figure in the rotation.

Jim Hardy, a 6-5 junior forward from Springfield (Delco), is a question mark. Mono sidelined him for more than a week of the early practices and he missed all of last season with stress fractures in both feet.

"We're going to be somewhat starless," Burke said. "Even though Todd is the focus, we'll be more well-rounded. The individual's team responsibility is really going to be heightened. Guys would wait for John to score. The same thing with Michael before that. Now, it's like, 'I gotta carry my share of the load.'

"A lot of people don't know our players. There was so much emphasis on John and Michael. But we have some good, solid players. People will see that."

Said Lehmann: "Any five we put on the floor can score points. We hear we're pretty low in the (preseason) rankings. That's always good to hear, to give us a little inspiration. We're really excited. We have a great attitude. We'll be playing as hard as we can every night."

Often, George Lehmann will be watching.

George runs a mail-order business specializing in novelty basketball T- shirts. With his brother, Austin, he also gives clinics and lectures across the country.

"My uncle does the ballhandling, my father does the shooting," Todd said.

"The T-shirts have a bunch of designs, all my father's idea. On one there's a guy shooting a layup and another shooting a three-pointer. It says, 'Two for you, three for me.' There's another one called 'Top Gun.' It has a guy falling out of an airplane shooting a 'three.' There's also a dunk one - 'In Your Face.'

"When I graduate (with a marketing degree), I intend to work with my father. Probably in both (endeavors)."

Back in high school, in game competition, Todd once made 42 consecutive free throws.

At Drexel . . .

"In Todd's freshman year - I don't know why I did it, haven't done it since - I told the guys, 'Shoot fouls until you miss,' " Burke said. "Cost us a half-hour of practice. Todd made 80-something in a row. Think it was 84."

George Lehmann would have loved it.

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