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Selfless Munzer leads Highland Park

12/04/2012, 7:03pm CST
By Erik Schmidt

Des Plaines Thursday 11.29.12. Highland Park's Lena Munzer (left) looks to pass while guarded by Maine West's Brittany Collins (center) and Alexia Prosperi (right) during their game on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, at the school in Des Plaines | Buzz Orr~Sun-T


Highland Park senior Lena Munzer’s game is loud and flashy.

Her personality? Not so much.

“Lena never wants to push people too far,” junior teammate Elizabeth Logrande said. “She’s always willing to tell you what you’re doing wrong, but sometimes she’s too nice about things. Like I’ll make a mistake and she’s really calm about it when she should be a little more intense.”

As far as criticism goes for the Yale-bound forward, that’s essentially where it begins and ends. And when being too nice is considered the only downfall, you know you have a rather special talent — and person — on your hands.

“Lena is an amazing young lady,” coach Jolie Bechtel said of the four-year varsity veteran. “She is not only respected by her teammates, but absolutely adored by her teammates. She is one of the nicest kids and one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met.”

But in true Jekyll-and-Hyde fashion, Munzer’s magnetic smile and bashful demeanor off the court gives way to a fierce and uncompromising competitor — angry scowl and all — when she steps on it.

She attacks the game of basketball like she’s wearing a utility belt. The 5-foot-8 standout dribbles and shoots with the grace of a guard and works the post with frightening power. During the Giants’ CSL North matchup with Maine West on Nov. 29, she delivered 30 points and 15 rebounds.

Her tools are vast, and often times the greatest challenge for coach Bechtel is deciding exactly what to do with all that boundless talent.

“I like to put her wherever she’s going to be able to do the most for us,” Bechtel said. “The thing is, she’s extremely smart, as well. She’s a coach on the floor out there.”

Lost among the sea of points and rebounds she’s collected over her career is her passing. It’s also her favorite skill.

“I love seeing my teammates work hard and I love seeing them score more than I like seeing myself score,” Munzer said. “I think that’s what we need this year, to have the attention to come off me a bit and have other people step up and people like Lizzie (Logrande) to hit big shots. The more of a team game it is the better we’re going to be this year.”

In a world of highlights and spotlights and videos, Munzer is a rare player who, despite her enormous talent and success, prefers to defer the praise and the ball to her trusting teammates.

But to be sure, even if Highland Park wins the conference championship and Munzer is handed the trophy to hoist, she’ll probably just pass it off. ~.

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