Lehigh senior center Tim Kempton dunks the ball while being defended by Army senior forward Kennedy Edwards during the men's basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017, at Stabler Arena. Kempton led the team with 25 points. (Sarah Epstein/B&W Staff)

Op-Ed: Shame on you Patriot League coaches, you robbed Tim Kempton

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“For the third straight year, Lehigh men’s basketball senior Tim Kempton was awarded with Patriot League Player of the Year honors as announced Monday afternoon by the league.”

That’s the opening lead I wrote in anticipation of Kempton’s record-breaking honor. He was on pace to go down as the first player in Patriot League history to win the award three times, surpassing names like former Lehigh guard C.J. McCollum, ’13, and former Bucknell University forward Mike Muscala, both of whom are in the NBA today.

It was a forgone conclusion after the year he put together. At least that’s what I and 99 percent of Patriot League followers thought.

On Monday afternoon, Bucknell’s Nana Foulland was announced as the Patriot League Player of the Year. With no disrespect to Foulland, calling this selection a robbery is an understatement. There are no words to describe it. There’s also no way of justifying why Foulland deserved it over Kempton.

Shame on the Patriot League coaches who voted. You stripped history away from one of the greatest players ever to compete in the league. After his Patriot League Rookie of the Year campaign, you had three years to figure out a way to slow this guy down and you couldn’t.

His numbers got better each and every year, including this year where he’s putting up career highs in points per game (20.0), rebounds per game (10.1) and 3-pointers made (19). That wasn’t enough to vote for him? There are about 4,563 scholarship basketball players on the Division I level. Kempton is one of two players in the country averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game.

Some coaches’ reasoning could be that Lehigh didn’t finish first in the Patriot League while Bucknell did it for a third straight year. That reasoning is idiotic and a lazy excuse to keep the same guy from winning an award three years in a row.

When Kempton won the award his sophomore year, Lehigh finished third in the Patriot League. Last year, Lehigh finished second behind Bucknell and Kempton still garnered player of the year laurels. This season, Lehigh tied Boston University for second place in the Patriot League, but the head-to head-series gave the Terriers the second seed.

So what’s the difference between then and now if Kempton has improved on his stats from the previous two years? In fact, Lehigh has won 18 games, and that’s the most a Lehigh team has had during the Kempton era, which includes victories over Princeton University and Mississippi State University.

It’s not like Foulland carried his team to a new feat. Bucknell has consistently won the Patriot League in the regular season, and that’s great for them. It’s the system and program they’ve built, not because of a revolutionary player. Don’t get me wrong, Foulland is a solid player and deserved Defensive Player of the Year, but you can even debate that Foulland is not the best player on his team because forward Zach Thomas actually leads the Bison in scoring (15.9).

It’s also worth noting that when Foulland was out with an injury in the last game of the season, Bucknell still won by 22 against a Navy team that finished fourth in the conference. Don’t be fooled, it’s the system.

Back to the topic of head-to-head series, the only Patriot League team Bucknell did not beat this year was none other than the Lehigh Mountain Hawks. Lehigh beat the Bison twice by an average margin of 10 points. A significant reason for that was Kempton averaging 22 points and 9.5 rebounds during their two meetings.

It’s ironic that this award came out the same day Kempton set a new record for most Patriot League Player of the Week awards in a season with seven. So you’re telling me the person with the most Patriot League Player of the Week awards  in league history didn’t win Player of the Year?

The whole point of the Player of the Year award is to award the player who performed the best in a season. That’s Kempton, and it’s not even close. If you ask all of the opposing coaches in the league which Patriot League player you’d prefer to have on your team, not one coach would honestly pick against Kempton.

If you want to counter that Foulland is a superior defender compared to Kempton, that is just plain ignorant. Kempton is second in the league (94.9) behind Foulland in defensive rating, and by the eye test, Lehigh struggles defensively when he’s not on the floor. In addition to that, Bucknell has three players within the top 5 of that category, so you can attribute that to the defensive system and scheme of the Bison.

Kempton is a top 10 finalist for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar award, which recognizes the best center in the entire country. I didn’t mention his double-doubles. If you truly believe Foulland deserved this award, that’s your opinion, but numbers don’t lie.

Congratulations Patriot League coaches, you poked the bear. You will just have to pray it doesn’t backfire come tournament time.

Zion Olojede, ’18, is the sports editor for The Brown and White. He can be reached at zbo218@lehigh.edu.

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16 Comments

    • Lol, the stereotypical “you don’t watch games” response when you can’t refute the facts but you wanna give your input. Next.

  1. The coaches have watched 1000x more video than you, and clearly know 1000x more about basketball. They clearly made the right choice – despite your bussed tantrum. True, Kempton has an advantage at the offensive end. BUT Foulland has an even bigger advantage at the defensive end. In case you don’t know it, defense is as important as offense. Plus Foulland has a much better attitude. Doesn’t constantly whine, as Kempton does, and doesn’t blame his teammates when things go wrong.

    Also Lehigh was virtually a unanimous pick for 1st place. Ended up with the 3rd seed. Bucknell was picked for 3rd and only had two returning starters. Ended up in 1st place. That counts. A lot!

    • If you knew anything about the voting process, you’d know that some coaches let the AD carelessly send in their vote. I know basketball, I’m a credentialed writer for Nigerian National basketball team, DukeReport.com and have tape of every game this year. It’s not a tantrum, it’s facts. Tim ranked second in the league in defensive rating so your claim that he has a bigger advantage defensively is silly and ignorant. You don’t know Kempton. Blame teammates when things go wrong? Now you’re just spitting trash lol. Attitude? You see that from TV because there’s no media covering his “antics”? You have no facts, just silly statements out the sky. Read the article for that last statement you said. I appreciate your click. Goodnight.

    • Look at Jeff Thomas, he’s got 2 first names…sounds made up. Kinda like the BS he likes to spew on the Internet…about a league nobody in the real basketball world cares about! (Get a real job buddy). Jeff, for future reference, you might have a little credibility if you would read an article and reference the stats before commenting on it.

      For those of you who care about PL men’s basketball, in an effort to avoid embarrassing Foulland, I’m not gonna bother posting the box scores for the Bucknell/Lehigh match ups where Tim owned Foulland. Those who care will access them on their own and be disappointed by the PLPOY voting.

      Jeff’s measure of whining is questionable to say the least, with no way to measure each player on an objective scale smh.

      However, I gotta hand it to Jeff, he has an amusing take on what really matters. Jeff states “Bucknell ended up in 1st place. That counts a lot” after recent history shows a 1st place Bucknell team that failed to not only win the league, but also failed to reach the PLC semifinals last year.

  2. Robert Davenport on

    The current Lehigh Bulletin came after my initial comment. Per Tim Kempton: “…nice to repeat as player of the year, but at the end of the day, it’s about winning, so I would take a championship over player of the year any day of the week.”

  3. Not A Bison Fan on

    Someone sounds a little salty…good luck against Boston. Maybe player of the year Tim will keep it under 20 this time

  4. If you look at the stats between them “per 40 min” they are closer than their season averages… Kempton 25.6 pts, 12.8 reb, 1.3 blk, 1.1 steals…Foulland 21.6 pts, 11.5 reb, 2.8 blk, 1.0 steals. Now with that being said & the fact that Bucknell’s a more evenly rounded team and easily won the regular season title, I don’t see how anyone can say Kempton was “robbed” of the POY! Also Kempton hardly owned Foulland in the series…did those of you who believe this actually watch the game at Lehigh? Was it 3 or 4 straight trips down the court that Foulland blocked Kempton? I don’t recall Kempton stopping Foulland defensively like that. Foulland owned crybaby Kempton that game, their guards just couldn’t knock down shots, which was the major factor in that game. Foulland rightfully deserves the POY & shame on all of you, whining as badly as Kempton does in games, about Kempton getting robbed!

  5. John Frederick on

    I am a Bucknell fan who frankly thought Kempton was going to win player of the year. That said for years before Kempton coaches and SID’s in the league have often voted for the best player on the best team. For years in baseball there has been a similar debate about MVP awards. To say that this was ridiculous and that it was not a close call either way it had gone is a bit over the top. I understand you are writing an opinion piece and feel this was a bad call on the league’s part, but to me it seems like a lot of vitriol for a coin toss that came up tails when you were hoping for heads. Both young men had outstanding seasons, and either could be reasonably argued as player of the year, Because one won it and not the other is not a slight of the second player in the least. I hope to see them settle things on the court next Wednesday.

  6. Pretty great year for a guy who couldn’t even make the NCAA tournament once in his career! Soooo deserving of POY!!!

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