Two years ago, senior guard Lance Tejada was miles away from where he is now, sitting on the bench dreaming of playing time.
Today, he is a member of the preseason all-Patriot League team heading into the Mountain Hawks’ opening Nov. 6 game against Monmouth.
Tejada’s two years of frustration over lack of playing time transpired at East Carolina University, where he originally committed before he gave Lehigh his full consideration. When he decided he wanted to transfer, he thought back to what he passed by in being a Mountain Hawk.
“It’s a funny story, I actually was set to visit Lehigh the week after I committed to ECU, but I ended up committing there early,” Tejada said. “You’re young, and you fall in love with a situation and don’t really think everything through.”
After he transferred to Lehigh in June 2016, he sat out the 2016-2017 season for eligibility reasons. But Tejada, who was nationally scouted as the 27th-rated high school point guard in 2014, demonstrated his potential with an explosive entrance to the Patriot League scene last season, averaging 14.7 points a game.
“Some places don’t work out for certain people,” Tejada said. “I feel like Lehigh gave me the opportunity to come in and actually play a good amount.”
Tejada said the time off also helped.
“Being here, having a different coaching staff and different culture, it’s just a whole different feel and (has) allowed me to grow and helped with my confidence,” he said.
Associate coach Antoni Wyche expressed that there was uncertainty surrounding Tejada’s time at East Carolina and his decision to transfer, but overall interest in bringing Tejada to Lehigh was still high.
“We knew he was that talented,” Wyche said. “I followed him throughout his high school career, so we were very familiar with him. We weren’t completely certain what happened at East Carolina, but we knew what he could contribute to us, and tried to build him up once he came here.”
This year, Tejada will start at point guard after last year’s second-team All-Patriot League guard Kahron Ross graduated in the spring.
Fellow senior Kyle Leufroy shares Tejada’s ultimate goal of a Patriot League Championship.
“The number one goal is getting a championship and making it to the tournament, and trying to make some noise in the tournament,” Leufroy said. “It hasn’t happened since C.J. (McCollum) has been here — we’re trying to change that.”
Tejada and Leufroy have grown close in the two years they’ve played together, developing a chemistry integral to Lehigh’s drive for a championship.
“Me and Lance were up here all summer… I think especially (since) this summer, we’ve gotten a lot closer,” Leufroy said.
Tejada hopes to translate the duo’s chemistry into an ultimate victory. After the roundabout journey he’s been through, he is poised to put forth his biggest impact of his dual-pronged collegiate basketball career.
“Everything happens for a reason. I wanted to go somewhere where I felt wanted and needed, where I could impact the culture,” Tejada said.
The Mountain Hawks will begin their season on Tuesday, Nov. 6, against the Monmouth Hawks at the OceanFirst Bank Center.