Lehigh point guard Joe Foley never set limitations during his freshman season.
Foley, a native of Atherton, California, committed to Lehigh as a walk-on after his senior season at the Woodberry Forest School in Virginia.
While looking for which college to attend, Foley said he wanted a school that was welcoming and had great academics in addition to a great basketball team.
“When visiting (Lehigh), I felt very much at home because of the bond I established with the players and coaches,” Foley said. “I also knew that I had a chance to make an impact in the program as a freshman and in this league.”
Foley said he knew wherever he committed the goal would be to play as a freshman. He points to the Lehigh coaching staff for their belief in and dedication to him as a deciding factor in his decision to commit to Lehigh.
“The coaches kept in regular contact with me during my senior year, which made me feel wanted and caused me to gravitate toward Lehigh over other schools,” Foley said.
In training camp, he made an immediate impression on the coaching staff and upperclassmen. He displayed a high motor and fearlessness, challenging senior guards Lance Tejada and Kyle Leufroy on the practice court.
As the season progressed, Foley began to see meaningful minutes in key games. A high-motor, explosive first step and great court vision made the freshman a spark off the bench for the Mountain Hawks.
“His vision is excellent as a guard and he has a sixth sense of where people are out on the floor, and that’s really valuable,” said head coach Brett Reed. “Plus he’s got some size to the position where he can get into deep creases on the offensive end and if he doesn’t finish, he has the ability to find other people as well.”
Battling a shoulder injury early in the season, Foley came back and stepped into a rotational role. The freshman flashed ability as a two-way guard with good size, adding a heightened intensity on both ends of the floor.
Reed said Foley’s injury held him back from getting consistent playing minutes early in the season, but he was “a strong contributor” nevertheless.
Foley played 16 minutes in a Feb. 20 win over Army, scoring eight points and grabbing three rebounds on 4-7 shooting from the field. He continued to see time as a rotational piece leading up to and during the Patriot League Tournament. Foley played 18 minutes in the Patriot League semifinal at Bucknell, scoring eight points and adding three assists.
The freshman noticed a clear increase in the pace of play from the high school level to college, but Foley credits his experience on the AAU circuit and summer workouts at Lehigh with easing the transition.
He said having the opportunity to play with guards Jordan Cohen, Tajeda and Leufroy helped him adjust.
“Not only is the speed of the game much faster but the players are bigger, longer and more athletic,” Foley said. “However, growing up playing against older kids and being on the Adidas AAU circuit, I had the opportunity to play against some of the top players in the country.”
The Mountain Hawks will lose Tejada and Leufroy once they graduate in May.
Tejada was the team’s leading scorer and a first-team All-Patriot League selection while Leufroy was a third-team selection.
Lehigh will also lose junior forward Pat Andree and sophomore guard Caleb Bennett to transfer.
Andree averaged 12.9 PPG and 6.2 RPG on 41.9 percent shooting from three. The 6’8” forward is garnering interest from Pittsburgh, Boston College, Wake Forest, TCU, NC State, Kansas State and others.
Bennett was a core rotational player before injuring his knee midway through the season.
Leufroy said he wasn’t surprised to see Foley crack the rotation this season. While replacing these guards will be a tough task, Leufroy is confident Foley is up for the challenge.
“I thought he earned what he got, he has a bright future for sure,” Leufroy saod. “I like Joe (Foley) a lot. He’s got a tight handle and a uniqueness or elusiveness that’s crazy. It allows him to get into tight spaces and get to the cup.”
With three of Lehigh’s four top scorers from this season leaving, Foley will need to elevate his game alongside Cohen. The Mountain Hawks were one of the top three-point shooting teams in the country this season, largely thanks to the shooting of Tejada, Leufroy, Andree and Cohen.
Foley said Tejada and Leufroy‘s actions spoke louder than their words on the court.
“They showed me and the other guys what hard work and dedication will get you,” Foley said. “As seniors, they set the tone at practice and in the locker room and helped create a good, positive chemistry. I also found them to be very approachable and interested in my development as a player and person.”
Now being asked to fill some big shoes, Foley said he is confident and ready for whatever is thrown at him as he steps into a leadership role.
“With losing Lance (Tejada), Kyle (Leufroy), Pat (Andree) and Caleb (Bennett), we will be a younger team with less experience,” Foley said. “However, I’m very optimistic about our future because I believe we have the right pieces in place to be very successful, and I think we will have great team chemistry. Between the coaches and the players before us, we have a great foundation and path for how to move forward and be a great Lehigh team.”