BETHLEHEM, Pa. - In the midst of one of its strongest seasons in program history, the Lehigh men’s basketball team found time to give back to the community as the Mountain Hawks visited Hanover Elementary School last Thursday, then Nitschmann Middle School on Monday. The squad delivered a number of messages to the youngsters, including respect, self-confidence, the importance of hard work and more.
“We talked about the value of respect and most importantly, what it means to respect yourself,” said senior Justin Maneri. “Believe in yourself because that’s really all you need to achieve your goals.”
“It’s important to give back to your community,” said senior John Adams. “It gives you a sense of family. Being a freshman, we didn’t really understand what we were doing, but being a senior, we truly value giving back to the community. Just having that sense of community at the games, and people talking to you at the grocery store saying ‘good game,’ is an incredible feeling.”
The Mountain Hawks first visited Hanover Elementary School last Thursday, touching on a variety of topics while putting on a basketball display for the enthusiastic youngsters. Players and coaches discussed respect, healthy eating and getting a good night’s sleep. There was some basketball sprinkled in as sophomore Mackey McKnight and junior C.J. McCollum put on a ball-handling display while three Mountain Hawks participated in a dunk contest. There was even a shooting contest pitting students against teachers. The events concluded with a brief question and answer session.
In the end, the Lehigh team is a strong representation - and role model - for the youngsters, both in elementary and middle school. Students can look up to the Mountain Hawks, see what they’ve achieved both academically and athletically, and strive to do the same.
“We’re very fortunate to represent a wonderful example of young men from throughout the entire country who have excelled in school and are also doing a good job in college with the rigors of their academics with balancing basketball,” said head coach Brett Reed. “It’s important for the youth of our area to see a positive example of that - to witness people who are athletically talented, but also put a lot of hard work and effort into academics as well.”
“I can think back to when I was little and listened to basketball players at assemblies like this,” said Adams. “It inspired me to do the best I could; it gave me a dream. We hope to give them inspiration to try hard in school, basketball and every aspect of life.”
The Mountain Hawks often utilize time during winter break to make the difference in the community.
“The community gives a lot back to us,” said Maneri. “We see them at our games cheering us on. Being a part of the Lehigh Valley now, after moving from my home in New Jersey, it’s like a new family to me. It’s nice to give back.”
The final appearance came on Monday as the squad visited Nitschmann Middle School to touch upon similar topics as their Thursday visit to Hanover Elementary. There was another exciting dunk contest, while McKnight, McCollum and freshman Corey Schaefer put on an ball-handling display.
“We realize how important our influence can be and how we’re part of a bigger team, which is Lehigh University,” said Reed. “But when you extend that beyond the university, it’s nestled in a wonderful community in Bethlehem and is part of the Lehigh Valley with great people. It’s nice to get off campus and connect with others.”
Service Electric TV2 Sports was at Nitschmann Middle School on Monday. Be sure to check out their full report on Tuesday’s Sports Scene: at both 6 p.m. and approximately 9 p.m. (following the first game of their high school doubleheader).