Posted: 03/16/2013 | Last updated: March 16, 2013 at 07:58 PM
By: Taylor Boyd '13
Senior Gabe Knutson is making big plays on the court and in the classroom and he’s got the numbers to prove it. The Accounting major from Urbandale, Iowa has left his mark on more than the hardwood during his four years here at Lehigh and his prospects for the future are brighter than ever.
At 6 feet 9 inches, it’s hard to imagine Knutson never having found his way onto a basketball court. However, from fourth through seventh grade, Knutson and his family lived in Australia for his father’s job and his only basketball experience was in gym class. It wasn’t until his family returned to the states that Knutson really got serious about the game.
“Coming back to Iowa, I started playing with AAU teams and my school team,” said Knutson. “That’s when I really started to become a lot more serious.”
He was quite the decorated athlete during his high school career, earning honors like two-time Elite All-CIML Team selection, two-time All-State Class 4A selection and 19U Iowa State AAU MVP. However, Knutson’s All-Star status also carried over to the classroom. Despite his busy schedule, he managed to earn a spot on honor roll during all four years of high school and ended up graduating in the top two percent of his class of more than 300 students.
When it came time to begin the process of selecting a college, Knutson hadn’t heard much about Lehigh or its basketball program. Once he visited the campus though, he knew that Lehigh was going to be the perfect fit for both his athletic and academic needs.
“When I came on my visit, I learned that Lehigh had the number one Accounting program in the nation,” said Knutson. “I didn’t know that I necessarily wanted to study Accounting, but having the school ranked that high was pretty cool to me. The people and the atmosphere here were both great.”
Knutson wasn’t the only one who felt that he and Lehigh were a perfect match. Head coach Brett Reed knew right away that he couldn’t pass up on Knutson’s talent.
“Upon evaluating Gabe, I saw a player who had a strong skill set,” said Reed. “Even when Gabe entered our program as a freshman, it was obvious that he was well coached, understood the game and put himself in positions to be successful both offensively and defensively.”
Most freshmen only dream of getting consistent playing time during their first year, but Knutson was put to work right away. In his first season with the Mountain Hawks, he scored 315 points which was good for the eighth most points by a freshman in school history. Knutson started in all but one game and scored double figures in 15 of them. He was named a Patriot League All-Rookie Team selection and his 52 field goal percentage ranked him top three in the Patriot League.
Knutson clearly made his entrance known on the court and remarkably, managed to do the same in the classroom. Finding a balance between studying and practice proved challenging but ultimately prepared him for the challenges that the working world will likely bring him.
“Being an athlete is basically like a full time job, with practice and games along with a full course load,” said Knutson. “It has really improved my time management while my communication skills with professors have definitely improved. It hasn’t been easy, but it has definitely given me a springboard for when I graduate.”
Knutson’s ability to find the balance early on was not something that went unnoticed by his coaches.
“Gabe is a wonderful example of someone who balances the academic rigors of Lehigh University with his athletic pursuits,” said Reed. “He’s excelled on the court, but he’s also excelled in the classroom.”
Knutson continued to excel following his rookie season. In his sophomore year, he was second on the team in scoring and rebounding and played in all 31 games, starting 30. He finished with double-figure points in 20 games and eclipsed 20 points on three occasions. His academic success also continued to thrive and he was named to the inaugural Academic All-Patriot League Team.
In his junior campaign, Knutson was second on the team in scoring and rebounding for a second consecutive year. His 51.2 field goal percentage was good for second in the Patriot League and he was named a Second Team All-Patriot League honoree. He also earned Academic All-Patriot League laurels for the second straight season.
Knutson acknowledges that he and his teammates have had to overcome many hurdles in his senior season following the injury of classmate and fellow co-captain C.J. McCollum.
“We’ve responded well to tough situations,” said Gabe, “A lot of other teams would have shut down.”
“I think Gabe’s experience has allowed him to continue to grow in many facets of the game,” said Reed. “The biggest area of growth that we have witnessed this year is his increased perimeter skills. He is now a legitimate threat on the perimeter and needs to be guarded and planned for as such by our opponents. That, combined with his interior scoring ability, has made him a valuable anchor for our offense and someone who has well surpassed a significant milestone of over 1,000 career points.”
Knutson surpassed 1,500 career points in the Patriot League Semifinals at Lafayette. He has started every game since the season opener (which he missed due to injury) and is second on the team in scoring average.
However, Knutson’s contributions to the basketball program this season have extended beyond the court’s boundaries. He and his fellow teammates have been working tirelessly to build on the excitement of last season’s success and encourage fans to make the trip over the mountain to support for home games.
“I’m really happy with student turnout and fan support,” said Knutson. “It’s been something that we’ve been trying to foster since my freshman year, continually trying to get more and more people out.”
His leadership skills, dedication to his game and his schoolwork have served as great examples for his underclassmen teammates.
“Gabe is a good teammate,” said Reed. “He cares about the other players on the team. He is unselfish and wants the team to be successful. He also has exhibited high levels of character and has a great deal of credibility as a person amongst his peers. That, combined with his experience and the fact that he has been a successful part of a successful team over the course of his career, has given him credibility as well.”
Knutson is already making plans for his future.
“This summer I’m working for Price Waterhouse Coopers in New York City,” he said. “After that, I’m either going to go play overseas if I find a good opportunity or I’m going to hopefully start fulltime somewhere and finish my credits so I can get my CPA.”
While some of his plans are still up in the air, one thing is for certain. Whether on the court across the pond or on Wall Street, Knutson is sure to impress.