Even though the women’s basketball team was ranked first and the men’s team last in the Patriot League preseason polls, both teams have one thing in common: standout underclassmen.
Sophomore guard Mackenzie Kramer and freshman point guard Keith Higgins Jr. have accumulated five Patriot League honors among the two of them this season. Kramer was named player of the week twice and Higgins Jr. won rookie of the week three consecutive times.
Though Kramer and Higgins Jr. are second and first year players, respectively, they are both shooting the lights out this season.
Kramer leads the Patriot League in field goal percentage (47 percent) and three-point percentage (41 percent). Kramer has hit 19 more threes than the second best three point shooter in the conference, with 65 makes on the season.
Higgins Jr. scored a career high 26 points in Lehigh’s blowout win against Bucknell and has hit the second most threes for the Mountain Hawks with 33.
Kramer has started in every game this season and leads the team in scoring. During her freshman season, however, Kramer started in just two out of 16 games. Although she was placed on the Patriot League All-Rookie team, she was challenged by head coach Sue Troyan to improve even more.
“She wasn’t happy with her role as a freshman, and she put the time in to fix it,” Troyan said. “She came back from last season and is, in one word, better.”
Higgins Jr. left high school ranked as a top-100 shooting guard in the country. He transitioned to point guard, a position he had never played before, once he started at Lehigh.
“Keith (Higgins Jr.)’s natural position is off the ball where he can be a scorer for our program, but our team needed someone who could take care of the basketball,” coach Brett Reed said. “He seemed like a natural choice and has helped our team see real strides since.”
Higgins Jr. has scored the fourth most points on the team this year and has played more than 25 minutes in every game since Dec. 21. He started in all of the last 14 games played.
Both Kramer and Higgins Jr. are known as consistent and confident shooters. Troyan said Kramer is the best three-point shooter she’s ever coached.
Freshman forward Burke Chebuhar said Higgins Jr.’s elite shooting is what sets him apart.
“When he shoots it, we know it’s going in,” Chebuhar said.
Kramer and Higgins Jr. have both excelled academically, too. Higgins Jr. made Dean’s list this past semester and Kramer maintains a 4.0 grade point average.
Not only does Higgins Jr. take care of the ball on the court, he also takes care of his academic responsibilities, Reed said.
That same dedication and commitment can be found in Kramer, Troyan said.
“In anything Mackenzie (Kramer) does, she is driven,” Troyan said. “She has the same drive in the classroom that drives her to be her best on the court.”
Both teams play Colgate on Wednesday. The men are traveling to Hamilton, N.Y. and the women will host the Raiders at Stabler Arena.
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