After a disappointing 2020-21 season finishing with a 4-11 record, the Lehigh men’s basketball program looks to build on the foundation it built with its young core talent.
Over the summer, there was uncertainty as to whether or not the team members would be able to return to campus this year, let alone be able to play their season.
“One of the most gratifying things for me was to give our kids an opportunity to play a game that they love,” said head coach Brett Reed. “With as much turmoil as was going on in 2020 and parts of 2021, the commitment that everyone exhibited at Lehigh to give these kids a chance to play a game they love was really important.”
Even after discovering that students would be able to return to campus for minimal in-person activities, the possibility of a season was still up in the air as fall sports experienced several pauses due to the rise of COVID-19 cases on campus.
First-year guard Luke Traina said that the team did not know what their schedule would look like until the weeks leading up to the season’s start.
“We didn’t really know what to expect, we only figured out our schedule a couple weeks before, about half or maybe even a third of what we would usually play, but still nonetheless we were so excited to play,” Traina said.
Traina said he felt extremely fortunate that besides the school-wide pause in October, the team experienced only one other stoppage of play, which took place from Feb. 1 to Feb. 14.
While COVID-19 presented numerous challenges in the context of game and practice cancellations, it also created problems that people often forget about, such as team chemistry.
Traina said it was more difficult to get to know everyone on the team quickly than it would be in a normal year, but as time goes on, he is confident it will improve.
“Obviously the fellow freshmen were easier to get to know because we were living together, but when it came to the upperclassmen I really only got to see them occasionally outside of a practice,” Traina said.
Senior guard Marques Wilson is the lone captain of the team this season. Wilson is a four-year player who comes from Oklahoma, and he has been a reliable scorer throughout his career.
Wilson said he looks back on his career with plenty of fond memories.
“I’ve had an enjoyable career here,” Wilson said. “I’ve gotten a chance to play with a lot of great players, players that are playing overseas. I have made a lot of good memories, learned a lot, been through adversity. (I have had) to manage all the areas of my life and still be able to produce and be a part of a team.”
Wilson said he took the opportunity of being the only captain of the team in an unusual year as a challenge. He said he aimed to perform on the court and be the best teammate he possibly could away from the court.
He reiterated the same sentiment that Reed and Traina expressed.
“It didn’t go the way that we’d hoped it would go, but it didn’t have to go any way at all–we could have not been playing,” Wilson said. “I mean, it’s still tough, as a competitor it still eats away at you, but the fact that we even got to play was a privilege.”