After failing to convince junior guard Lance Tejada to become a Mountain Hawk right out of high school, the Lehigh men’s basketball coaching staff seized a second opportunity to corral him when Tejada announced he would transfer from East Carolina University in the spring.
Tejada, or L.T. to his friends, is no stranger to traveling over 450 miles along the East Coast to reach his new home. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, Tejada moved to the Miami area when he was 14 years old.
Out of Blanche Ely High School, the 6-foot-1 guard was ranked the eighth best player in the state of Florida and 27th best point guard in the country in the class of 2014 rankings by ESPN. Tejada acquired interest from national powerhouses such as University of Virginia, University of Miami, Butler University and Florida State University but ultimately decided to sign with East Carolina.
Although coach Brett Reed and his staff showed major interest in him, he had already made his decision prior to making an official visit to Bethlehem. After two years as a Pirate, Tejada reopened the recruiting process with his decision to transfer. On June 6, Tejada made that official visit to Lehigh, and three days later, he verbally committed to be a Mountain Hawk.
“The difference between then and now is that I matured a lot during the process,” Tejada said. “Out of high school I looked at things differently, and I had to go through a lot to understand my situation. Now I look at the bigger picture and what really matters.”
Tejada said it wasn’t a hard decision. He knew where he wanted to go once he finalized his transfer request, saying he didn’t take many calls from other schools. He credited the Lehigh coaching staff for sticking with him through his ups and downs.
“I already knew that I was going to come to Lehigh just with my comfort with the coaching staff,” Tejada said. “They wanted me bad out of high school, and they stuck with me. I know they believe in me and will put me in the right situation to be successful.”
Tejada averaged 4.3 points per game in his two years at East Carolina. His brief stint as a Pirate was highlighted by an 18-point performance in a win over Tulane last season. Tejada hit a career-high five three-pointers to go along with four rebounds. Due to NCAA rules, Tejada will be ineligible to compete this season, but he’ll be expected to help fill the scoring void next winter after seniors Austin Price and Tim Kempton graduate.
“Once he becomes eligible, he can help us in a variety of ways from his ball handling, playmaking and scoring ability,” Reed said. “He should be able to complement other players in the program, and we’ll ask him to be versatile.”
One of those players he should be able to complement is junior point guard Kahron Ross. Tejada believes he can play alongside the first team All-Patriot League guard and take pressure off him at times with his ability to run the offense as well. Reed also added Tejada brings experience to the table and can be looked upon as a mentor to other teammates.
Tejada can only watch as his new teammates aim to bring home Lehigh’s first Patriot League title since 2012. Despite sitting out, Tejada has set goals for himself this season.
“My plan and goal this year is get better everyday and push my teammates to win a championship,” Tejada said. “My job is to be an older guy on the team and lead by example on and off the court.”
Reed believes the year off will be beneficial for Tejada as it will allow him to focus on his degree as well as getting acquainted to the university. Although Tejada will be a senior academically next year, he will still have two years of eligibility left to play.
The Mountain Hawks are slated to begin practice in about three weeks.