Posted: 10/31/2012 | Last updated: October 31, 2012 at 05:30 PM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Lehigh men’s basketball seniors Gabe Knutson and C.J. McCollum have been named candidates for the Senior CLASS Award, as announced on Wednesday. Lehigh is the only men’s basketball program to have multiple players among the candidate list of 30. An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School ®, the award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities. The award focuses on four areas: community, classroom, character and competition.
Knutson and McCollum are two of the three Patriot Leaguers on the list, along with Bucknell’s Mike Muscala. Other players come from a variety of prestigious programs, including Indiana, Illinois, Louisville and more. Two years ago, Rob Keefer was named a candidate while three seasons ago, Marquis Hall was among the 10 finalists.
As strong has Knutson has been on the court, he’s been just as impressive off it, owning a 3.23 GPA as an Accounting major. He’s made the Academic All-Patriot League team in each of the last two years, joining Muscala and Lafayette’s Ryan Willen as the only three to do so. Knutson has earned a spot on multiple Patriot League Academic Honor Rolls while winning the Faculty Athletics Council Award as well. Other academic awards include recognition on the 2012 NABC Academic Honors Court while garnering the Faculty Athletics Council Award.
Knutson has excelled at numerous academic projects at a challenging school like Lehigh. His team finished first of 75 in Lehigh’s Business Project Team. They created a business plan which included financials, marketing and industry analysis. Knutson and his partners presented the plan to area venture capitalists, which were sent to Accenture for judging. They ultimately won a trip to New York City and toured the New York Stock Exchange.
Knutson has already enjoyed extensive work experience in his area of interest. Last summer, he interned at Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, shadowing and constructing bank examinations and approving dividend requests through financial analysis and communication with bank management. Just recently, he accepted an internship position in New York City with PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Gabe has thrived in the leadership realm as a member of Lehigh’s Emerging Leaders program. Emerging Leaders is a voluntary program and prerequisite for Lehigh’s Leadership Legacies. Throughout his experiences, Knutson has learned basic leadership and self-assessment skills. He’s also served as a Student-Athlete Mentor, assisting freshman athlete move in and mentoring 13 student-athletes, facilitating discussions on a weekly basis. Knutson was a member of the Lehigh Pride program while serving as a Student Council President his senior year of high school.
Knutson took part in a Leadership Program at PricewaterhouseCoopers in the summer of 2012 following an extensive interview process. He attended the three-day event at the New York City office and was named "MVP" of the conference after its conclusion for the degree of participation and contributions given during the program. A leader on and off the court and a role model to his teammates, Knutson was recently voted a team captain for the 2012-13 season.
The Urbandale, Iowa native has certainly made his presence felt in the Bethlehem community. He and his Lehigh men’s basketball teammates have made numerous school visits, especially right before the season (in October) then during school break in January. Knutson has also played a role in "Reading Rocks," run through the C.O.A.C.H. program (Community Outreach by Athletes who Care about Helping). The program helps middle and high school student-athletes and their peers make informed choices regarding their education, drug and alcohol issues, and other factors that may affect reaching their full potential. Lehigh student-athletes act as "coaches" for local school students by making presentations to students and student-athletes and offering educational-themed sports clinics, group outings to Lehigh athletic events and facilities and other special projects.
In addition, Knutson has worked at numerous summer basketball camps, mentoring youngsters to help them build team and leadership skills.
Knutson has teamed up with McCollum as both seniors who have already eclipsed 1,000 career points. While McCollum has been a strong force as a guard on the outside, Knutson has been a rock down low. He’s played in 98 games (starting 95) since stepping foot on campus; the only three games he hasn’t started have come on Senior Days when he stepped aside to let a senior start. Knutson has tallied 1,110 career points, surpassing 1,000 last Feb. 11, 2012 against Colgate. He became the 30th player in program history to reach that plateau. Gabe is just 29 points away from the top-20 in school history for career points, and could crack the top 10 before all is said and done.
Knutson averaged 9.5 points and 5.6 rebounds as a freshman, 12.2 points and 5.7 rebounds as a sophomore and 12.2 points and 5.6 rebounds as a junior. He’s reached double-figure points 58 times in his career, including 23 times a season ago. Knutson had 17 points and eight rebounds during Lehigh’s historic NCAA Tournament win over Duke, which included a perfect 5-of-5 from the field. He’s been very efficient as his career field goal percentage is 51.1 percent (385-of-753) while he’s shooting 77 percent from the free throw line (333-of-432).
Knutson was named All-Patriot League for the first time last year, earning Second Team laurels, while garnering preseason All-League this season. He posted a season-high 23 points at Bucknell in the Patriot League Championship Game along with 21 points at Fordham and vs. Colgate (when he eclipsed 1,000 career points). He finished last season with two double-doubles, at Cornell and Bryant (when he grabbed a season-high 13 rebounds).
Just as impressive is McCollum, who has impressed not only on the court, but also in the classroom as a Journalism major. Last spring - the semester he led Lehigh to its second Patriot League Championship - McCollum posted a stellar 3.60 GPA and was named to the Dean’s List and the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll. In total, his major GPA is approximately a 3.0 while he’s also garnered the Faculty Athletics Council Award. McCollum currently interns in the Lehigh Sports Media Relations department, receiving real-life writing (and video) experience for his future career goals in Journalism. McCollum is also heavily involved with the Brown & White student newspaper, serving as assistant Sports editor while writing stories.
After deciding to withdraw from the NBA Draft, McCollum wrote an extensive piece featured on Sporting News’ website titled: "Why I’m returning to Lehigh for my senior year." McCollum had an opportunity to be selected in the 2012 NBA Draft, but he values his education and decided to return to earn his degree.
McCollum has extensive leadership experience as a three-time team captain. Captain since his sophomore year, McCollum has helped lead the Mountain Hawks to new heights - winning the Patriot League twice in the last three seasons while earning a historic win over Duke in last season’s NCAA Tournament.
McCollum is a participant of Lehigh’s Pride and Legacy programs while serving as executive member of SAC (Student Athletic Committee). Within these programs, he’s learned basic leadership and self-assessment skills. In Leadership Legacies, McCollum participates in biweekly workshops to become a more effective team leader. Through the program, he studies conflict resolution, communication and group dynamics to help develop leadership qualities. It’s a select program as McCollum was chosen by coaches (as both a junior and senior). This came after he took part in "Emerging Leaders" as a sophomore, a voluntary program and prerequisite for selection to Leadership Legacies.
Through SAC, McCollum has coordinated and led the sub-committees, representing their student-athlete peers at student senate meetings and Patriot League SAC Meetings. McCollum received the Class of 1904 Award in 2012, a University Leadership Award.
McCollum has become a role model not only at Lehigh, but also within the Bethlehem community. He makes numerous school visits, oftentimes speaking to the youngsters. McCollum has taken part in "Reading Rocks," serving as a speaker at this year’s kickoff event. In addition, the Canton, Ohio native has worked at numerous summer basketball camps, mentoring youngsters to help them build team and leadership skills.
McCollum’s on-court accolades are truly endless. He’s already been named a preseason First Team All-American by the Associated Press and Sporting News, joining an elite group of the nation’s best players. McCollum owns 2,074 career points after only three seasons, standing second in Lehigh and Patriot League history. He needs only 151 points to break the league mark of 2,224 held by Holy Cross’ Rob Feaster, while he’s 630 from breaking the school record of 2,703 currently held by Daren Queenan. McCollum has been a consistent scorer from day one, averaging 19.1 points per game as a freshman, 21.8 as a sophomore and 21.9 a season ago.
Among his many highlights, the Canton, Ohio native posted 30 points, six rebounds and six assists in Lehigh’s historic 75-70 NCAA Tournament win over Duke. He finished the season with 124 assists (tied for ninth in school history), almost 50 more than his previous career high. McCollum is a two-time Patriot League Player of the Year and AP Honorable Mention All-American. He was named ECAC Player of the Year a season ago, winning the honor over players from the ACC, Big East and Atlantic 10. McCollum garnered NABC First Team All-District laurels for a third straight season and was one of only 25 players nationally named a Lute Olson All-American.
McCollum eclipsed 20 points on 20 occasions last season and surpassed 30 points five times. His game-winning three-pointer at Bucknell on Feb. 16 was featured as a SportsCenter top player, setting the stage for one month later when he and his Mountain Hawk teammates captured the nation’s attention in a Mar. 16 win over Duke.
Last season, McCollum was named Patriot League Player of the Week six times (to tie his single-season record set last year), upping his already career record of 12. He improved his all-around game a season ago, averaging 21.9 points per game (on an efficient 44.3 percent shooting), 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists. His 124 assists last season were tied for ninth in school history. McCollum has played in all 99 games in his career, starting 97. After coming off the bench in his first two games as a freshman, he’s started 97 straight times. He was the nation’s leading freshman scorer in 2010-11 before being that top sophomore scorer and finishing third among juniors a season ago.
The men’s Senior CLASS Award winner will be announced during the 2013 NCAA Final Four® in Atlanta April 6 and 8.
The candidate classes will be narrowed to 10 finalists midway through the regular season, and those names will be placed on the official ballot. Ballots will be distributed through a nationwide voting system to media, coaches and fans, who will select one men’s finalist and one women’s finalist who best exemplifies excellence in the four Cs of community, classroom, character and competition.
Check back to Lehighsports.com for continued updates on the Lehigh men’s basketball team leading into a highly-anticipated 2012-13 season.
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DI Men’s Basketball 2012-13 Candidates