Posted: November 6, 2007
There’s a new leader on the Mountain Hawks sideline this season, as former associate head coach Brett Reed takes the reigns of the Lehigh program. Reed has been at Lehigh since 2002, helping the Brown and White to its first-ever Patriot League Championship as well as one of the stingiest defenses in America and the program's most wins in a four-year period during that span. Reed has vowed to keep many of the principles of his predecessor Billy Taylor in place, such as aggressive defense, strong rebounding and attention to detail, but he also has plans to improve the Mountain Hawks offense, which has not averaged more than 63 points per game in the last three seasons.
Junior captain Matt Szalachowski speaks for every member of the Lehigh team when he says the Mountain Hawks are excited about where they are headed under their new leader. “I just want to say that I am extremely excited about the decision to hire Brett Reed as our new coach, as well as the direction of the basketball program. I think Coach Reed is the perfect individual to take over our program and he has the complete backing of every member on the team. Coach Reed has some excellent ideas on improving our program and I am looking forward to getting this season underway.”
Despite being just a freshman last season, Marquis Hall had as big an impact as any player on the Mountain Hawks roster. The Oregon native became Lehigh’s first-ever Patriot League Rookie of the Year, earning Patriot League Rookie of the Week honors a league-record eight consecutive weeks during the regular season and garnering Mid-Major All-America laurels afterwards. Hall averaged 10.9 points per game and dished out 133 assists, the fourth highest single season total in school annals. With a silky smooth jumper and the ability to get to the basket and finish, this preseason All-League selection has an opportunity to go down as one of the greatest to ever don the Brown and White.
Joining Hall in the backcourt is fellow captain Matt Szalachowski, a heady player who can play both the point and shooting guard spots. The junior appeared in 26 games last season and showed the ability to not only distribute the basketball, but also knock down shots from the perimeter. Szalachowski possesses great leadership and communication skills, both on and off the court.
Sophomores Matt Shamis and Dave Buchberger both had solid starts to their Lehigh careers in 2006-07. Shamis appeared in 30 games, averaging ten minutes per game, while the rugged Buchberger played in 15 contests on the year. Shamis is a tough defender and solid ball handler who can also stroke it from long range, while Buchberger isn’t afraid to bang down low or guard the opposition’s perimeter players away from the basket. With a year of experience under their belts, Reed will look for this duo to add both quality depth to the Lehigh backcourt.
A quartet of newcomers round out the Mountain Hawks guard lineup, including Rob Keefer, Prentice Small, Michael Ojo and Brian Hunter. A natural scorer, Keefer comes to Lehigh after averaging 17 points and four assists last year in high school. Keefer has shown the ability to put the ball in the basket from anywhere on the floor and should benefit from the attention that Hall will receive. Keefer faced plenty of tough competition throughput high school, which should help him adjust to the college game quickly.
A 5-9 speedster who can fill it up from deep, Small comes to Lehigh by way of North Babylon, New York where he garnered First-Team All-State laurels. Small averaged 26 points per game as a senior and was named LongIslandBaskeball.com’s Player of the Year. Small is an outstanding on-ball defender who will allow the Mountain Hawks to be more aggressive on the defensive end, as this New York native can pressure the basketball the full 90-feet.
Coming to Lehigh from Santa Monica, California is the 6-5 Ojo, who played his high school basketball at Crossroads School. Ojo was a three-time All-League selection at Crossroads where he averaged 25 points, eight rebounds, and six assists per game as a senior. With good length and athletic ability, Reed expects Ojo to develop into a strong defender, as well as a solid rebounder and contributor on offense.
Hunter graduated from nearby Emmaus High School after putting the finishing touches on an outstanding senior season in which he led the Green Hornets to the Lehigh Valley Conference Championship. Known more for his overall scoring ability than his shooting, Hunter scored over 1,400 points while in high school and was regarded by many as one of the top high school players in the entire Lehigh Valley a season ago.
Lehigh’s roster lists only three forwards, but it’s a talented, experienced trio which presents matchup problems for opposing teams in a number of areas. Leading the way is senior captain Bryan White, who is the leading rebounder among returning players in the Patriot League as well as the second leading shot blocker. The 6-6 Florida native has started 55 games over the past two seasons and averaged 5.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in 2006-07. White’s offensive game continues to show flashes as evidenced by his career-high tying 18-point performance (to go along with a career-best 15 boards) versus Navy last season. White’s experience and athleticism around the rim gives the Mountain Hawks one of the fiercest defenders and toughest rebounders in the entire Patriot League.
Joining White in the frontcourt is 6-10 junior Phil Anderson, a lethal shooter from deep who showed last year that he isn’t afraid to bang down low. The California native came into his own as a sophomore, starting 20 games and leading the Mountain Hawks in three-point field goal percentage for the second straight season. Anderson knocked down 48.6 of his three-point attempts as well as 50.8 percent of his field goal tries. With added bulk to his frame and an ever-increasing knowledge of the Lehigh system, Anderson presents a problem for opposing defenses with his shooting sills and ability to get out in transition.
If not for the success of Marquis Hall a year ago, Zahir Carrington may have had a case for Patriot League Rookie of the Year himself. The 6-7 pogo stick from Philadelphia quickly showed that he was ready for the rigors of college basketball as he became a dependable low-post scorer as well as a rugged defender and rebounder. Carrington appeared in 30 games as a freshman, averaging 5.4 points and 3.4 rebounds, as he earned himself a spot on the Patriot League All-Rookie Team. With a year of seasoning under his belt and an uncanny ability to get to the foul line, Carrington should be primed for a break-out campaign.
Perhaps the position with the most uncertainty entering this season for the Mountain Hawks is center, where junior John Gourlay and freshman David Safstrom reside. After graduating Jason Mgebroff off of last year’s team, it is Gourlay’s time to shine on the blocks for the Mountain Hawks. The 7-0 Arkansas native has been hampered by injuries in each of his first two seasons, but when healthy, Gourlay has shown the ability to be a contributor for Lehigh. He scored a career-high ten points in last season’s Patriot League opening win over American and then pulled down a career-best ten rebounds versus Holy Cross. Gourlay has a nice touch from the perimeter and is an intimidating presence in the lane on defense. If he can remain healthy, the Urban Studies major has a chance to provide Lehigh with low-post scoring and interior defense.
Fellow seven-footer Safstrom is still raw by most accounts in terms of basketball experience, but no one will question his desire to improve. A native of Washington, Safstrom averaged ten points, eight rebounds and four blocks as a senior in high school as he garnered All-Wesco North Second-Team honors. A heady player who will battle Gourlay day-in and day-out in practice, the Mountain Hawks have hopes that Safstrom can be a contributor down the road.
Lehigh tips its 2007-08 season off on Saturday when the Mountain Hawks take on the Cornell Big Red in Ithaca, New York. Tip-off is set for 7:00 from Newman Arena. Lehigh’s home opener is slated for Wednesday, November 14 when the Brown and White welcome St. Peter’s to Stabler Arena. Tickets are available by calling 610-7LU-GAME, by visiting the Lehigh Athletics Ticket Office or by logging onto Lehighsports.com at anytime.