William “Bill” Lienhard Born: January 14, 1930 (Slaton, TX)
Graduated: Newton High School, 1948; University of Kansas, 1952
They came from towns across the state from places like McCune, Winfield, Beloit, Medicine Lodge, and Topeka. Of course, there was one “import” on 1952 University of Kansas team but for the most part, the team consisted of Kansans, including one kid from the basketball hotbed of Newton.
Playing for legendary Newton High School coach John Ravenscroft, Lienhard developed the skills that would take him all the way to Olympic gold. Lienhard was the leading scorer for the Railer teams in both his junior and senior seasons, earning All-Conference honors both years. He earned All-State honors following his senior year when he led the state in scoring and guided the Railers to a 25-1 record.
His senior year in Newton in 1948 helped attract the attention of another famous coach, Phog Allen. Lienhard signed on to play with the University of Kansas following his high school career and continued to develop under the watchful eye of Allen.
Lienhard was part of a stellar class of recruits which included the likes of Clyde Lovellette, Bill Hougland, Bob Kenney, and John Keller. It didn’t take long for that group to start making their mark for the Jayhawks.
Lienhard broke into the starting lineup as a sophomore during the 1949-1950 season. He finished fourth on the team in scoring, averaging nearly six points per contest on a team which finished tied for the Big Seven Conference crown. Lienhard’s junior year saw more improvement and he again finished fourth on the team in scoring and was a regular starter.
By the 1951-1952 season, the Jayhawks were on the precipice of greatness. The Jayhawks won the Big Seven Conference with a record of 11-1.Lienhard finished the season fifth in scoring but stepped up during the biggest games of the season in the NCAA tournament. His twelve points in the 1952 championship game, including eight in the first half, sparked the Jayhawks to the national title.
Lienhard was one of seven Jayhawks chosen to represent the United States at the Olympics in 1952 after finishing second to the Peoria Caterpillars during the Olympic playoffs. Lienhard averaged four points per contest for the gold medal winning team. Lienhard is a member of the University of Kansas Athletics Hall of Fame and received the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame’s “Pride of Kansas” Award in 2012.