Senior forward Burke Chebuhar talks with his teammates on the sideline during a game against Holy Cross on Jan. 13 at Stabler Arena. Chebuhar led the Mountain Hawks in rebounds for the second-straight game. (Holly Fasching/ B&W Staff)

The origin story of Lehigh’s newest breakout star


As the shot clock struck zero during the Lehigh men’s basketball team’s 78-72 victory at Holy Cross, a smile stretched across senior starting center Burke Chebuhar’s face, admiring the culmination of his hard work.

Chebuhar had just experienced a career night on the court: 20 points, 10 rebounds and a victory against Holy Cross, who defeated the Mountain Hawks just two weeks prior.

That might be my favorite basketball memory for sure because we won,” Chebuhar said. “It was awesome that I had a good game, but it was also of big relevance for us because Holy Cross had beaten us when we played them at Lehigh a couple of weeks ago.”

From an unrecruited Division III basketball player who played 41 minutes across his sophomore and junior seasons, to the starting center for a Division I team on the cusp of hosting a home conference playoff game, Chebuhar has certainly come a long way. 

Growing up in Marietta, Georgia, Chebuhar always enjoyed sports and playing outdoors. But for most of his life, he struggled to find his true love, torn between baseball and basketball.

That was until his breakout high school sophomore season on the court, which led him to commit to Division III Bowdoin College solely for basketball.

Although his parents supported Chebuhar’s athletic dreams, they preached the importance of education, which drove his decision to commit to the academically rigorous college in Brunswick, Maine. 

During his sole year at Bowdoin, Chebuhar did not see the court after the basketball season was canceled due to COVID-related athletic limitations. 

Despite the abrupt cancellation, Chebuhar continued to hone his craft in the offseason. 

I knew things weren’t gonna be like that forever so I had to stay ready so I [could]be ready when I got my opportunity,” Chebuhar said. 

After a year at Bowdoin, Chebuhar decided to transfer to Lehigh with the help of connections from his former travel coaches. However, Chebuhar was only offered a walk-on spot during his move to South Mountain. 

Still, Chebuhar’s teammates instantly embraced his presence with his work ethic, knowledge of the game and positive attitude.

On the court, he is a team player who everyone knows is always going to make the right play,” senior guard Jayshen Saigal said. “In any circumstance, Burke (Chebuhar) is going to make the right decision that will help our team be at its best” 

Junior guard Tyler Whitney-Sidney noted Chebuhar’s rebounding prowess and impressive footwork around the hoop. 

Off the court, Chebuhar’s upbeat personality has also brought the team closer together.

“Burke is just always smiling,” Whitney-Sidney said. “His nickname is ‘Cheese’ for the simple fact he’s always gonna make you smile regardless of how you’re feeling in that moment.” 

Chebuhar’s positive mindset in adversity has also been noticed by his coaches, as he has seen increased playing time this season and promotion to starter. 

Burke has had the biggest impact on our season. Before the season started, Burke was not a part of our rotation. He came to practice in September with a noticeable sense of urgency, motivation and confidence,” Morra said. “Burke played great every day in practice and got to a point in December where he commanded minutes from Coach Reed. Burke can change the trajectory of our season with his skill and versatility.” 

As Chebuhar transitioned into a bigger role on the team, his philosophy of sticking to the grind and doing his job on the court became his form of leadership, as he believes the best way to lead is by doing your part. 

“I would just say I’m not necessarily the loudest guy in the room, but I’m always willing just to try to lead by example and kind of set up the blueprint that others set for me,” Chebuhar said.. 

Chebuhar continues to lead with a smile, rightly embodying his nickname “Cheese,” and looks to propel Lehigh Basketball to new heights as they matchup against rival Lafayette on Saturday Feb. 10 at Stabler Arena.

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