Lehigh freshman forward Pat Andree stands midcourt after the Patriot League quarterfinal game Thursday, March 2, 2017, at Stabler Arena. Andree started in six games as a freshman this season. (Erik Thomas/B&W Staff)

Evolving under pressure: Pat Andree steps up for Lehigh men’s basketball as freshman

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Pat Andree’s family revolves around basketball.

His father, Tim, played for University of Notre Dame before being drafted in the fifth round of the NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls in 1983.

His brother, also named Tim, walked on at Notre Dame. Basketball is in the Andree gene pool.

Andree has been an important member of the Lehigh men’s basketball team as a freshman. He has played in 27 of the team’s 31 games with six starts and is averaging 6.5 points per game.

The Lincroft, New Jersey, native was the Christian Brothers Academy’s all-time leading scorer before coming to Lehigh in 2016. Lehigh coach Brett Reed said Andree’s scoring ability caught his eye during the recruitment process.

“We knew we needed some skill in the forward position, and he has the ability to shoot the basketball,” Reed said. “I also thought he has a pretty good feel for the game.”

For Andree, the recruitment process was long. He said Lehigh was the first to start recruiting him during his sophomore year. He committed to Lehigh the August before the start of senior year.

The level of intensity was the biggest change from high school to college ball. Andree said players must stay locked in the entire game and can’t give up on a defensive play. He said it is all about the flow of the game, and players must keep their heads up even after making a mistake.

“That was one of the first things I noticed when I came here,” Andree said. “You can’t take any play for granted. Every single play — it matters, it really matters.”

During the first few games, Reed said Andree was showing flashes of being a top-line player, but was having his ups and downs. His shooting had an impact but his defense needed work.

Andree said the defensive side of basketball is not always a physical thing but can instead be mental, with players needing to know their assignments and where they must be on the court at all times. He said he had been working on staying focused during the game and keeping his intensity up.

Senior Austin Price said Andree is progressing his defensive skill a lot faster than expected.

“At the beginning of the year, (Andree) was terrible at defense,” Price said. “I laugh at that because I can see that he’s improved so much on the defensive end.”

Reed said once Andree started to demonstrate improvement in his defense and rebounding ability, his minutes increased. Andree’s breakout game as a Mountain Hawk came against Saint Francis University, where he led the team with 30 points, going 10-for-12 from 3-point range.

Andree got his first start as a Mountain Hawk the next game.

Senior Tim Kempton was a starter during his own freshman year and remembers the added pressure there is to play at a college level. Kempton said starting as a freshman, everyone expected him to step right in and play like he had been there for four years.

Kempton said the added pressure makes it tough on freshmen, but they must keep playing the game they know how to play. He said once they find out the game of basketball is the same, that is when those players click and get rolling, which is what happened for Andree.

Andree said he didn’t feel extra pressure to perform when he was starting. He said since he started every year in high school for Christian Brothers, he is used to handling the pressure of being a starter.

“Every game is pressure,” Andree said. “You’re in the game, it doesn’t really matter who started the game, it more matters whose finishing it, who’s in the game the whole time and who’s making plays for the team.”

Price, who also started as a freshman, said he doesn’t think Andree felt extra pressure as a starter because he had played the role for most of his career. 

Andree said trusting a freshman to be a starter says a lot about Reed and it fuels his drive to prove himself.

Lehigh will graduate Kempton and Price this summer, losing rebounding and shooting skill in their offense. Reed said he hopes to evolve Andree as a player so he can impact the game beyond his shooting ability and add versatility to his offensive game, which could offset some of the rebound potential the team loses with Kempton leaving.

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