Total transformation

For as long he can remember, John Beineke has been one of the tallest kids on his basketball teams. He was just never one of the strongest, or most physical.

Until now.

No longer a lanky guard who shies away from contact, Beineke is a sturdy center whose aggressive presence is an invaluable component of the Franklin College men’s basketball team.

A 6-foot-7, 235-pound junior, Beineke is the Grizzlies’ second-leading scorer (14.4) and rebounder (6.8) and is the Heartland Athletic Conference’s leading field-goal shooter at .662 percent.

The numbers belie the fact that Beineke, a former standout guard at Perry Meridian High School, is still very new to playing in the low post.

“Being physical, posting up hard, using my body, it was never really a part of my game in high school,” said Beineke, a two-year starter for the Grizzlies. “I love it now. I think I’ve gotten pretty good at it.”

Franklin coach Kerry Prather thinks the same thing.

When Beineke came to the Grizzlies three years ago, he did so with no low post experience to speak of. Today, he’s one of the conference’s most efficient — and physical — big men.

“He came to us without a lot of post skills. What John has had to warm up to is the constant physical battle, the physical contact of inside play. As much as anything, I’m proud of the fact that he hasn’t shied away from that. He’s really done a great job of applying himself.”

Although height has always been an advantage for Beineke, physicality has not. It’s why, from grade school through high school, he played in the backcourt, not in the paint.

“Growing up I was always a tall kid, always one of the tallest (players) on my teams,” Beineke said. “I was also really thin, so I wasn’t much of a powerhouse, by any means. I grew up playing a lot of one-on-one. I just kind of naturally felt good with the ball in my hands. I was always a thinner, lighter guy, so I never really liked to bang down in the post in high school and middle school.”

Combined with his height, Beineke’s ball-handling and shooting skills served him well in high school. But on the recruiting front, his lack of an inside game was a bit of a liability. Unable to find a suitable college home, he gave up basketball and enrolled at IUPUI — and quickly realized that his passion to play was too strong to suppress.

So he reached out to the Grizzlies, who warmly welcomed him — as a center, a position he had to quickly learn and, more importantly, bulk up for.

“What I explained to him was, we really didn’t need a big dose of what you did in high school,” Prather said. “But what we do need is a guy your size willing to learn how to play inside. I remember him telling me, ‘I can’t describe myself as a skilled post player, but I would like to learn,’ which is music to any coach’s ear, and oftentimes is more talk than walk. But in John’s case, that has literally played itself out every day.”

A software engineering major, Beineke immediately went to work refining his skills and getting stronger. The learning curve has been swift, as has the strengthening process. The proof is in the results.

Beineke averaged 6.6 ppg his first season and was a double-digit scorer (11.3 ppg) by his sophomore year. Today, he is one of the HCAC’s top players and continues to improve each day.

“I wanted to change my body and put a lot more muscle on,” Beineke said. “I had never been a real strong guy. That took some time. I keep getting better, so I’m comfortable with it now, comfortable where I’m at. I think it’s a lot of fun, so I have no complaints.”

He also has no complaints, or regrets, about choosing Franklin College. He relishes every aspect of his campus experience.

“The biggest thing is the close-knit community,” Beineke said. “I went to IUPUI for a semester and didn’t make any new friends, just because it’s such a huge school. You’re kind of on your own, really. But when I came here, everyone on the basketball team’s real close. You know everybody that goes here, basically. Classes are small, so you get to meet a lot of people, and there are a lot of really nice people here.

“Class-wise, it’s just great having a personal relationship with your teachers. They know everybody personally, and they do a lot to help you.”