'March Madness' in 1930 starred AU Sig Johnny Lehners,
the Trojan's first All-American basketball superstar
As the Trojan basketball team has stunned the NCAA with its run at the title during this season's March Madness, it’s a great time to hoist a cold beer to Johnny Lehners.
He was the “quiet, unassuming lad from Hollywood,” a USC Sigma Chi and, in 1930, exploded into Trojan basketball history as our first All-American basketball player.
Alfred F. Wesson, the star writer for the Southern California Alumni Review, said at the time that Lehners was known for his stifling defense, that is until he stunned his opponents with half court shots long before there was a three-point rule. Wesson called him “the long-distance expert.”
In his 1931 All-American season, “chalking up 74 points, most of them long shots from near the middle of the floor,” Lehners had a knack for scoring “when the Trojan forwards were bottled up by the opposing team,” wrote Wesson.
“Capt. Johnny Lehners,” Wesson said in March 91 years ago, “has proven a great leader, putting up a clean, hard fight at all times and being always an inspiration and example to his teammates. Lehners has been one of the coast’s best players for three years and it will be tough to lose a man of his class and dependability next season.”
He did all this under legendary Trojan coach Sam Barry and, in fact, won the Sam Barry Most Valuable Player Award in 1929, after winning All-Conference honors in 1928.
In addition, Lehners “played an important part in the Barry offensive system, their short passes and tantalizing dribbles serving to draw out the opposing team, as well as to put the Trojan forwards in position to take shots at the basket.”
Lehners' “best asset was his ability to guard the Trojan territory” as evidenced by “the low scores registered by Southern California’s opponents.”
But the next year, Lehners was in the stratosphere. He was selected a consensus All-American by AP, UPI, INS, Taylor-Converse, The Sporting News, USBW Colliers and the Helms Athletic Foundation.
So, as Alpha Upsilon Sigs bask in the Trojans’ remarkable 2021 run, let’s all hail to brother Johnny Lehners.