Above the sound of sneakers squeaking, whistles blowing and fans cheering, emerges one voice clearer than the rest.
Kyle Leufroy’s words of encouragement ring out over Stabler Arena, motivating his teammates to play as a cohesive unit.
The Mountain Hawk offense gains possession and pushes the pace.
Leufroy drives toward the basket, reaching for the net with one arm, ball in hand.
The junior guard only stands still long enough to watch the basketball land in the net before retreating down the court in anticipation of the opposing team’s counterattack.
For Leufroy, Lehigh men’s basketball player and captain, basketball is more than a game.
It’s an experience driven by passion and energy — both of which Leufroy uses to unify and lead a young Lehigh team.
However, the sport he’s found success in during his collegiate years wasn’t always his favorite.[parallax-scroll id=”55592″]
Growing up, Leufroy’s favorite sport was soccer until he hit age 11 and started playing basketball through the Amateur Athletic Union, or AAU. He took the sport seriously from the start.
“I think that’s just when I fell in love with the experience,” Leufroy said.
His father had played basketball, exposing Leufroy to the sport when he was around 5 years old.
In addition to the passion and energy of the game, Leufroy said his competitiveness and skill on the court both contribute to his love of the sport.
Leufroy took his basketball career a step further when he reached high school and decided to play for Prolific Prep in Pasadena, California.
During his four years on the team, Leufroy played against top competition, which he found would challenge him into his years as a Lehigh student athlete.
He said the experience taught him the importance every game carries and helped prepare him for the collegiate level.
Before he visited Lehigh, Leufroy wasn’t fond of the school, but he said the basketball coaching staff was dedicated to recruiting him and making him feel as if he had a place among the Mountain Hawks.
The coaches’ efforts paid off, and Leufroy committed to play basketball almost 2,700 miles across the country.
During his freshman year at Lehigh, Leufroy landed a spot on the Patriot League All-Rookie Team and earned Patriot League Rookie of the Week a league-high four times — all within two months.
He finished as the fourth highest scorer on the team with an average of 10.6 points per game, reached double-figure points in 19 out of 32 games and led the team in scoring in five games.
As a sophomore, Leufroy moved up a spot and finished as the third top scorer with an average of 11.4 points per game.
During the first half of his collegiate athletic career, Leufroy helped the team advance to the Patriot League Championship finals twice, a set of experiences he described as humbling.
While the Mountain Hawks ultimately fell short in both games, Leufroy said it was an accomplishment to get there in the first place. He said playing in the championship game is the team’s goal each season.
Leufroy said this year the team is looking to break through the threshold and secure a championship title to advance to the NCAA tournament.
At the start of the 2017-18 season, Leufroy was named a team captain alongside senior guard Kahron Ross, pushing him one step closer to leading the team to a championship win.
“I think it’s been difficult just having to embrace more of a leadership role, especially because, you know, we are a young team, so I think the guys really look up to somebody to follow after,” Leufroy said.
Although each season brings new challenges, Leufroy said he’s ready to step up and fulfill his role as captain.
Ross said Leufroy is a natural leader and added that one of Leufroy’s biggest strengths is his vocal leadership qualities. Ross said the pair works well together.
“We’re friends on and off the court,” Ross said. “That’s my guy. He’s been my guy since his freshman year, and it’s why we have a really close relationship, and I think it shows on the court as well.”
Coach Brett Reed said while Leufroy has significantly grown as an athlete and is an experienced player, he was mainly recognized as a captain for his ability to set an example as one of the team’s hardest workers.
“He’s been very good at bringing other people on board and helping understand the path that we’re looking to follow,” Reed said.
He said he’s seen a lot of growth in Leufroy’s contributions to the team and influence on his teammates throughout his first two seasons. Reed added that Leufroy’s maturity has allowed him to understand both how to lead the team in a positive way and what it takes for a team to be successful.
Reed said Leufroy’s personality unifies the team and gives the Mountain Hawks a spark on the court.
“He’s somebody that naturally has energy and passion, and that energy and passion can become contagious,” Reed said. “We tell guys a lot of times if you give energy, you get energy, and (Leufroy) is someone who can really give energy.”
So far this season, Leufroy has reached double-figure points in five out of 10 games. He’s led the team in scoring in one game and tied his career high of 23 points in a game — which he set his freshman year — during the third game of the season.
He’s the team’s third highest scorer so far this year with 107 total points and an average of 10.7 points per game.
Looking back at his Lehigh basketball career up until this point, Leufroy said there hasn’t been one career-defining moment.
“Just being able to be here every day with this team who I can honestly call my family — my family away from home — I think that just within itself is a blessing and a privilege that I’ve been able to be a part of,” Leufroy said.
He said his aspirations of becoming an NCAA basketball player were distant dreams when he was younger.
Now, Leufroy spends a few hours each day on the court in Stabler Arena — a second home to him — and is known as one of the team’s most vocal, energetic and passionate leaders.
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