Mackenzie Kramer: The Patriot League’s (Unofficial) Most Improved Player

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While the Patriot League doesn’t have a “Most Improved Player” award, Lehigh sophomore guard Mackenzie Kramer would certainly be in the running if it did.

As a freshman, the Minnesota native started in just two of the team’s 16 games. She averaged 8.7 points per game on 36% shooting during a first-year campaign tarnished by the COVID-19 pandemic. The start of the season was delayed more than two months, and fans were not allowed to attend

Sophomore Mackenzie Kramer shoots a 3-pointer against the Loyola Maryland Greyhounds on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022, at Stabler Arena. Kramer is one of six women’s basketball players from Minnesota. (Sandler Douglas/B&W Staff)

Also that year, first-year student-athletes were simultaneously settling into a mostly hybrid-style college experience and adjusting to their new team’s system. Routine was hard to maintain.

“I’d start to get into a flow with the team and then, boom: two weeks of quarantine,” Kramer said.

Kramer and her teammates experienced five different quarantines totaling more than 70 days in isolation.

Kramer believes these challenges helped build the team’s resilience. By season’s end, the Mountain Hawks had defeated Boston University to capture the 2021 Patriot League Championship.

“You start to ask yourself, ‘Is it really worth it — not being with your family during Christmas and all?’” Kramer said. “When we won the championship, and I saw the joy on Coach (Sue) Troyan’s face as she cut down the net, it became clear that it was.”

Following Lehigh’s subsequent loss to fourth-seeded West Virginia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Kramer worked tirelessly on improving her jumper during the offseason. 

The following season, with the schedule back to normal and fans in the seats, Kramer added more than seven points her to per-game scoring average, leading the Mountain Hawks with 15.9 — the third-highest total in the Patriot League.

“She wasn’t happy with her role as a freshman, and she put the time in to fix it,” Troyan said.

Kramer’s scoring increase is largely attributed to her shooting. After going just 36% from the field and 34% from the 3-point line as a first-year, Kramer improved to a league-high 45% from the field and 40% from long-range. The sophomore guard scored 20 points or more seven times and had a career-high 31 points in Lehigh’s 70-57 win over Georgetown on Dec. 21.

Sophomore Mackenzie Kramer leads a fast break in a home game against Delaware State. Kramer is a population health major from Minnesota. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

“She’s a great off-ball reader,” senior guard Clair Steele said. “She’s able to navigate the defense really well to create her own open looks off the ball.”

Kramer holds Lehigh’s single-season record in 3-pointers made with 95, and she knocked down five or more 3s on six different occasions. She finished the 2021-22 season ranked sixth in the nation with 3.2 made 3-pointers per game. Kramer was later named to the All-Patriot League Second Team.

Off the court, Kramer has excelled in the classroom. The three-time Dean’s List member was awarded Patriot League Women’s Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year and was placed on the Patriot League All-Academic Team.

Kramer acknowledged Troyan for instilling leadership qualities into her and the rest of the team.

“She made me believe in myself, which is something you definitely want from a coach,” Kramer said. “She’s been such a great role model.”

Troyan, who completed her 27th straight season as the women’s head coach, will be transitioning into a senior leadership role within the Lehigh Athletics Department moving forward. Addie Micir, who has served as the associate head coach since 2019, will be taking on the head coaching position. In addition to Troyan, the team will also be losing three seniors to graduation in Steele, Emma Grothaus and Megan Walker.

“There’s so much talent on our bench that didn’t get as many opportunities,” Kramer said. “Don’t be surprised if you see a similar team out there next year.”

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