Courtesy of LehighSports.com
BROOKLYN, N.Y. - Thursday night proved to be historic for former Mountain Hawks’ standout C.J. McCollum and the Lehigh men’s basketball program. McCollum’s dreams of an NBA career were realized when the Portland Trail Blazers selected him with the tenth pick in the 2013 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center. McCollum becomes the first ever Lehigh men’s basketball student-athlete to be selected in the draft.
“The love and support from Lehigh is great,” said McCollum. “We’ve never had an NBA player before. The second player drafted from the Patriot League; hopefully Mike [Muscala’s] name will get called soon. This is a blessing to be in a position where I can represent my home state, my city, Lehigh and my family.”
“What a special moment for C.J.,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “For him to have a childhood dream accomplished by going across the stage and shaking Commissioner Stern’s hand and becoming an NBA basketball player, it’s tremendous. I know he’s extremely excited about the next step.”
The Canton, Ohio native enjoyed one of the finest careers in Patriot League basketball history, amassing a league record 2,361 points in 111 career games for the brown and white. McCollum was the nation’s top freshman scorer in 2009-10 when he was named Patriot League Player and Rookie of the Year and led the Mountain Hawks to a league championship. The three-time First Team All-Patriot League selection was named Player of the Year again in 2011-12 as he led Lehigh to its second league title in three years. McCollum helped Lehigh garner national attention as he scored 30 points, grabbed six rebounds and handed out six assists in the Mountain Hawks’ 75-70 upset win over Duke in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, marking just the sixth time a No. 15 seed defeated a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
“You have to prove yourself night in and night out,” said McCollum. “That’s something I pride myself in. My family and I will take it all in tonight, but tomorrow is back to work, back to business. I’ll have to turn the page, get ready for summer league, get ready for the next step and the challenge of playing in the NBA.
An honorable mention All-American as a junior, McCollum earned preseason All-America honors from the Associated Press, a first for a Lehigh basketball player. He started his senior season strong, with 36 points against Baylor and set the Patriot League’s career scoring mark against Sacred Heart. McCollum was the nation’s leading scorer, averaging 23.9 points per game but was limited to just 12 games after suffering a season-ending foot injury in Lehigh’s Jan. 5game at VCU. McCollum finished his Lehigh career as the second-ranked scorer in school annals before earning his degree in journalism last month.
McCollum becomes just the second Patriot League student-athlete ever to be selected in the NBA draft, joining former Colgate standout Adonal Foyle, who was selected eighth by the Golden State Warriors in 1997. Bucknell center Mike Muscala is expected to be the third Patriot Leaguer selected later in Thursday night’s draft.
“It’s a tremendous accomplishment for C.J. but also a testament to Lehigh University and everything we’ve been able to accomplish,” said Reed. “The program is strong; it’s a championship level program. We’ve had young men that have come in here and embrace the academic standards of our university, knowing their degree will help them tremendously for the future.”
With his entire family by his side, McCollum took in the draft from the green room at Barclays Center. He was projected by many experts to go in the lottery (top 14), specifically between picks seven and 14.
McCollum joins a Portland team that went 33-49 in the 2012-13 season. Prior to the draft, McCollum was compared favorably to Blazers guard Damian Lillard, the 2013 NBA Rookie of the Year, who like McCollum starred at a mid-major school, Weber State.
“We have first-hand proof that you can get to the NBA from here,” said Reed. “You can have this opportunity, if your dreams are big enough, your desire is there and your talent matches. Lehigh University has produced a top 10 NBA Draft pick who once his career is over, will be set for life using his degree.”
Check back to Lehighsports.com over the coming days for continued coverage of McCollum’s selection by Portland.
Like Lehigh Men’s Basketball on Facebook and follow on Twitter for exclusive content, team updates and more.