The Lehigh men’s basketball coaching staff worked until the final hours of the recruiting period this spring to haul in two more additions, sophomore forward Ed Porter and freshman center James Karnik, and complete the 2017-18 roster.
Porter and Karnik give the program its 10th and 11th scholarship players. In addition to the two newcomers, freshmen Caleb Bennett, Marques Wilson and walk-on Shane Acoveno filled the remaining spots left by the five departures from last year’s roster.
Porter is a transfer from Hawthorne, Florida, a small town outside of Gainesville. He has been on Lehigh’s radar since his high school days but suffered an injury and opted to take the JUCO (junior college) route. He played at Florida Southwestern State College, looking for an opportunity to play Division I basketball.
“Junior college is a very talented league because Florida has very good teams competing,” Porter said. “There are a lot of good players there, which made me a very good player and made me more dedicated because a lot of people are fighting to play for a Division I program.”
Reed knows that the process for everyone transitioning into the Division I level is something that will take some time.
“I do not think that he will be intimidated by the talent and athleticism that he will face at the Division I level,” Reed said. “However, it is natural for anyone who steps into the Division I level to have an adjustment, especially at a difficult academic institution like Lehigh.”
Reed said Porter has a solid game, is fundamentally sound and will be a reliable addition to the team.
Porter is majoring in biology and is hoping to attend dentistry school after Lehigh.
Karnik is from the west side of Vancouver, Canada, and started playing basketball at an early age.
“One of the first camps was the Steve Nash camp when I was five years old,” Karnik said. “Growing up I played one year in normal high school, and I was in prep schools for the rest of my time. I played one year at a school called Balboa in San Diego.”
Karnik was a top player in all the leagues he was in throughout his high school career. He eventually moved to Orangeville Prep in Toronto which has produced some of Canada’s best basketball players.
As a player, Karnik will serve as a presence in the paint, using his athleticism to his advantage against other big men.
“James (Karnik) was a player that we had on our radar, and we liked him,” Reed said. “We were able to watch him play with his high school team, and fortunately for us, we were able to build a relationship with him, and he chose to come here even immediately after his visit.”
Karnik thinks Lehigh is a great fit for him in the classroom, because his parents stressed the importance of a good education when he was choosing schools. Karnik also realized he was someone the Mountain Hawks needed on their roster, and he was confident he would contribute to the team as soon as he stepped on campus.
“Coming to this school on the recruiting trip, I got to meet a lot of the guys, and there was a good group of guys I could go to war with,” Karnik said. “I heard both their bigs were injured, and I knew Tim Kempton was leaving so I thought I could fit that role here.”
Both Karnik and Porter look to help Lehigh return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012. The Mountain Hawks’ upperclassmen have been to back-to-back Patriot League Championship games but have lost both games to Holy Cross and Bucknell University respectively.