For most seniors entering their final year of college basketball, conference tournaments are everything.
Those few games in March make the difference between having one last chance to live out NCAA tournament dreams and hanging up the college uniform for good. But after a crushing loss to rival Bucknell (97-75) in the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament on March 10, Lehigh men’s basketball seniors Kyle Leufroy and Lance Tejada became part of an exclusive group that received another opportunity to play collegiately.
Leufroy and Tejada were two of the four seniors in the Patriot League invited to participate in the Dos Equis 3X3U National Championship from Friday, April 5, through Sunday, April 7, at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, the same city as this year’s Final Four.
The event consisted of 32 four-man teams, representing every Division I basketball conference, competing against each other in three-on-three style basketball for a $150,000 prize. The venue also featured an All-Star Game and a dunk contest for invitees and the public to enjoy.
This year, the Mountain Hawks comprised half of the Patriot League team, along with Bucknell’s Kimbal Mackenzie and Holy Cross’ Jehyve Floyd. As far as most Patriot League rivalries are concerned, the one between Lehigh and Bucknell has been the highlight of the conference for many years. However, the tournament was perhaps the first time the men weren’t participating as rivals, rather as teammates working toward a common goal.
For Leufroy and Tejada, the addition of two familiar Patriot League opponents made for a light-hearted team dynamic.
“We were really just out there enjoying our time and having fun — just a bunch of basketball players debriefing, talking about next steps and just enjoying life,” Leufroy said. “We were all talking trash back and forth, but it was fun to be playing with familiar faces, even if it sounds weird.”
The Patriot League team lost in the first game against the WCC conference team, but the tournament served as more than just another opportunity to compete. It was an atmosphere built to foster reflection, camaraderie and conversations about the prospect of signing agents and playing professionally.
Coach Harry Morra said the tournament put things into perspective for the athletes as they look to the future.
“In the grand scheme of things, they realize that they’re all kind of working for something bigger,” Morra said. “They’re graduating from prestigious universities and are similar in the sense that they’re great students and great athletes. They’re all on the same page about where they are at this point in life and what they want to do next.”
Both Leufroy and Tejada are in the process of continuing their basketball careers beyond Stabler Arena.
Leufroy, who ended his Lehigh career 15th in school history with 1,417 career points, said he has no plans to stop playing anytime soon. Leufroy was named third team All-League as a senior when he averaged career highs in scoring (13.8), rebounding (5.2) and assists (3.4). Leufroy scored 20+ points seven times as a senior after doing so six times over his first three seasons. Leufroy also shot 40.0 percent from three for his career, including 44.1 percent as a freshman and 42.7 percent as a senior.
An East Carolina transfer, Tejada similarly played a major role for the team. He was named an All-Patriot League honoree two times and led the Mountain Hawks in scoring in each of his seasons, averaging 14.7 points as a junior and 14.5 as a senior. Tejada is also among the national leaders in three-point shooting, capitalizing on 45.3 percent as a junior (10th in the country) and 41.7 percent as a senior (30th). Like Leufroy, Tejada hopes to sign an agent and continue his basketball career, wherever that might be.
“I’m definitely going to keep trying to play,” Tejada said. “I’m working on signing with an agent right now, and then hopefully I’ll get some NBA workouts or make the NBA summer league, which has been a goal of mine for this summer. If I end up overseas somewhere that’s fine too, I just know I want to keep playing.”
Wherever their professional pursuits take them, the decorated Mountain Hawks recognize the family they’re leaving behind.
“The best word would have to be bittersweet,” Leufroy said.