Season Preview: Young, but Experienced Mountain Hawks Excited to Get Started

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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many challenges, but at the same time has brought more appreciation and perspective.

For the Lehigh men’s basketball team, the love of the game has surfaced like never before.

“I had a really unique and special experience and that was when we first went to the gym,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “I could see the boys’ eyes light up and how much they enjoyed playing basketball.”

The end of the Mountain Hawks 2019-20 was bittersweet. The team went through 6-3 in the last nine games, but the student-athletes and coaches weren’t satisfied. There was an eagerness to get back on the floor in 2020/21 and with seven of the team’s top nine goalscorers returning, there is plenty of reason to be optimistic about the season ahead.

Reed knows the Mountain Hawks need to continue to be flexible to navigate a very atypical season.

“Nobody expected people to be home and not on campus by the end of the senior year,” he said. “Nobody expected certain things over time to get us to this point in December when we look forward to the Games.

“As a coaching staff, we are very proud to be very well prepared,” said Reed. “Everyone feels really good at their craft and takes great pride in getting our boys down, knowing our game plan and using it.”

Reed knows that his staff and players need to be prepared for anything. Teams that are most adaptable are likely to have the most success.

“Hopefully it doesn’t concern us, but there have been teams all over the country that should play one team and then almost instantly play another team,” he said. “This is going to be a year where you go back to the basics, love the game, try to be prepared, take everything in front of you and do the best job you can.”

The Mountain Hawks have fun among themselves. Despite only three upper class members (one senior and two juniors), Lehigh has a young but also experienced team (with several sophomores who also spent a lot of time as newbies).

“Each of our guys has made some pretty big strides in their careers up to this point,” said Reed. “We’ve seen that with Marques Wilson over the years. Jeameril Wilson really started to explode towards the end of last year. We saw it with Nic Lynch where he became a standout feature of our offensive.”

The same goes for the second class, which is highlighted by Patriot League all-rookie team member Reed Fenton (6.7 points, 2.7 rebounds per game) along with Evan Taylor (7.6 points, 3.5 boards).

“Reed Fenton was consistently in the line-up for us, played a lot of minutes and did it because he was really trustworthy,” said Reed. “He was generally in the right places, handling the ball, making open shots, making the right moves, and having a few minutes where he really excelled and thrived. delivered some great minutes. It’s a shame that he injured himself during the season because he really blossomed. “

Junior Jeameril Wilson is the leading returning scorer (10.6) and rebounder (5.3) on the team, which has recorded 14.7 points and 7.6 rebounds in the last nine games – coinciding with the rise of the Mountain Hawks in the late Season.

“Jeameril really grew over the season,” said Reed. “He has become much safer in basketball and has reduced his sales. He has also shown that he can score in basketball. It was a matchup issue for our opponents both from the middle distance and in the low block. That, coupled with his ability to shoot the three, gives him a strong offensive repertoire, which this year should translate really well into a reinforced offensive role. “

Junior Nic Lynch averaged 9.6 points and 5.1 boards, good for fourth and third place respectively in the Mountain Hawks.

“Nic became a great force for us well into the season,” said Reed. “He played at a high level and was very efficient with his chances. We felt that when he got the ball he had a good chance of putting it in the hole. He’s kept flashing that throughout his career to let.” but last year he kept it up for a long time.

“I think this experience will only help build his confidence. If he’s confident and assertive, that translates into his defense and work on the glass. There’s no reason he’s not one of the this year too better rebounder of the league can be. ” . “

Meanwhile, Lehigh’s only senior in the 2020-21 season – Marques Wilson – scored 9.1 points and 4.0 boards per contest while finishing second on the team with 90 assists.

“I loved seeing Marques grow in maturity and patience over the past year,” said Reed. “He missed almost all of our training sessions last season due to injuries, but kept staying and became an important building block for our success. Last season everyone became much more confident about what they can do as a passer. He found and set up team-mates . ” by doing the right readings.

“I think these experiences will give him confidence and probably help him level his offensive play to be both goalscorer and playmaker this year.”

Returning Mountain Hawks players realize that they have a significant stake in the team.

“They have shown a desire to put their thumbprint on, control and guide,” said Reed. “We still have growth to grow in this particular area (leadership), don’t get me wrong. But we have a lot of guys leading up front and off the middle and our newbies are trying to do the right things and keep our team’s standards up Building the right dynamics for strong team leadership is a priority.

“Our boys recognize the importance of pulling together and doing things right.”

The Mountain Hawks start the 2020-21 season with a strong foundation of flexibility that they showed last season.

“Our starting line-up and our overall style of play had to change because of all the injuries we had over the past year,” said Reed. “We tried different things and played in different ways depending on who was available. I said at the beginning of last season that our boys have a pretty strong mindset and so they would take on any challenge or opportunity that was presented to them. Keep that flexibility and really try to capitalize on it; this will help a relatively young team grow.

“As I go into this year, I feel good that we have learned many valuable lessons and that we have seen growth from our student athletes.”

A large and talented freshman class is focused and ready to learn. The dynamic between first graders and returning players was strong.

“We did an exercise where we had to talk about some of our defensive cover,” Reed said. “After we laid the foundation for the exercise, it was really cool to see our upper class come in and teach some of the younger guys almost personally what to do. They respect and understand the character, talent and hopefully productivity these young people bring, but they also took it upon themselves to step in and help – to help them become better players and to help us to grow closer together. “

Together. Like family. That familiar feeling in Lehigh men’s basketball has resulted in Reed’s consistent success over the years.

“I met with one of our newbies through Zoom earlier this year,” Reed said. “He was like a man, I love Lehigh’s culture because I have all these people who have been here before and are really trying to help me, teach me and show me the way.

“This is a great safe haven for our freshers because they know they have the opportunity to grow.”

In order for the Mountain Hawks to continue growing and thriving as a team this season, there are a few things they need to do.

“You can’t make games that beat themselves,” Reed said. “If you flip the ball, you lose shooting opportunities. If you take bad shots, you won’t shoot as well as a percentage. If you are not in the right places to fulfill your roles and responsibilities, you will run into trouble.

“When you’re faced with a year as crazy as this one with fewer opportunities to make mistakes and work, refine and hone it, essentially you have to go from zero to 60 at the very beginning.”

Reed understands the challenges that exist (limited off-season practice time, no out-of-league games, etc.) and will continue to do so.

It doesn’t ask the student-athletes to be perfect.

“Sometimes you can try not to make mistakes, but then you run the risk of losing aggressiveness and confidence,” said Reed. “If our kids believe in what we’re trying to do, they can connect the dots and put it all together and that will lead to a higher execution rate. Hopefully we can get to that point and let them play aggressively too.” where you don’t question yourself. We will do our best when we can play hard, smart, together and confidently. “

With games every Friday and Saturday, execution becomes even more important.

“It is possible that you could play a team five times in a given year,” said Reed. “When you come for the second, maybe third time, we will know them and they will know us.

“Then it’s just a matter of execution.”

With games played on consecutive days, it becomes even more important (and challenging) to stay healthy.

“We need to make sure we are maintaining our health and staying fresh,” Reed said. “Our players will do everything that will be exhausting for two days in a row. We need to be able to build their powers, help them with injury prevention, and give them the opportunity to work on their skills. There will be a lot of juggling, many premieres and a lot of thought that goes into structuring our approach to each Week of the season. “

The season starts this Saturday January 2nd at home against Lafayette before heading to Lafayette on Sunday. This season the Patriot League consists of three “mini-conferences”. Lehigh is in the center with Lafayette and Bucknell.

Colgate, Holy Cross, Army West Point, and Boston University make up the north, while American, Loyola, and Navy are to the south.

The season won’t look the same, but one thing will stay the same. It will feature student-athletes and coaches playing (and training) the game they love, battling for every coveted win and ultimately a Patriot League championship.

That’s what it’s all about.

Reed has this message for the Lehigh believers.

“Thank you for supporting our boys,” he said. “Thank you for your support and your belief in the university. Let’s celebrate that these children can do what they love, do it safely, and represent this great university.”

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