Clair Steele brings the ball up the court in a game against Holy Cross on January 24, 2021. Steele is returning home to the San Francisco Bay Area for a postgraduate year at St. Mary's. (Katie McNulty/B&W Staff)

Basketball senior returns home to play fifth year

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Senior Clair Steele was unable to name just one thing she is most excited to see when she returns home to the San Francisco Bay Area to play a fifth year of Division I women’s basketball at Saint Mary’s College after four years of starting for the Mountain Hawks.

Hailing from Orinda, California, Steele said she began playing basketball after watching her older cousins play while growing up.

“(Basketball’s) kind of like a little family thing,” Steele said. 

Due to the effects of COVID-19 on spring sports in 2020, Steele was granted an extra year of NCAA eligibility. 

Steele said she plans to take full advantage of the opportunity to compete at the college level for another year. As a Mountain Hawk, Steele led the Patriot League and her team in assists, led all Lehigh hoopers in steals during her junior season, was named Patriot League Rookie of the Week in her freshman season and led the nation in her assist-to-turnover ratio. 

Steele said departing from her teammates and heading home to California is bittersweet. She said she has become close with her teammates through their time spent together.

Throughout her time as a Mountain Hawk, Steele’s playtime has only increased, according to Head Coach Addie Micir. 

“I think if you look at her stats, she took fewer and fewer shots each year, but her assists went way up, and her turnovers went way down. So she found a way to be a scoring threat by letting others be a scoring threat,” Mircir said.

Steele said she is eager to play at a school close to her hometown so her family and former coaches can watch her play. 

“My dad’s co-workers, my aunts, uncles and even my high school coach are buying season tickets, which is so cool,” Steele said.

Steele has been a part of many Mountain Hawk wins, playing in almost every game throughout all four of her seasons at Lehigh. She said her favorite Lehigh basketball memories are when the team beat Seton Hall during her sophomore season and capturing the Patriot League Championship in 2021. 

Senior Emma Grothaus, Steele’s teammate, said Steele’s ability to motivate her teammates to perform better is what makes her such a special player.  

“Clair will never just be there on the basketball court. You will always feel her presence and intensity,” Grothaus said.

Steele said she plans to stay in sports and possibly pursue either an MBA in marketing or a master’s degree in management and technology, if her basketball schedule permits. Regardless of the exact plan, she said she hopes to use her fifth year at Saint Mary’s College to make important strides for her future. 

“I think it would also be cool to be an agent for professional athletes or even get involved with a WNBA program, or just any women’s professional team to try to give back by giving them the hype and recognition they deserve,” Steele said.

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