Originally written on College Chalktalk  |  Last updated 11/8/12
(Credit: Brent Hugo/Lehigh Athletics) Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen and his Lafayette counterpart, Fran O’Hanlon, tried to interject a little levity to the annual Patriot League pre-season luncheon held in Bethlehem, Pa., in late October. The target of their good-nature barbs was one of the three student-athletes in attendance — Lehigh’s All-American guard C.J. McCollum. “I am probably speaking for all Patriot League coaches that all of us were overjoyed, C.J., that you decided to withdraw your name from the NBA draft and come back to school,” Paulsen said, with tongue firmly in cheek. “Alot of us were really excited to hear that.” The senior from Canton, Ohio, wouldn’t bite, choosing instead to watch highlights from the 2011-12 Patriot League season on a nearby screen. “Someone was talking to me earlier about being the longest-tenured coach in the league,” said O’Hanlon, entering his 18th season with the Leopards. “Well, C.J. McCollum is the longest tenured player. He has been here for 12 years, or so it seems.” While the audience around him chuckled, McCollum sat stoically next to teammate, and fellow senior, Gabe Knutson. The message from the duo heading into the season is clear: the Mountain Hawks mean business. After winning an unprecedented PL Player of the Year award as a freshman, McCollum’s sophomore year ended with a controversial 66-64 loss to Bucknell in the league semifinals. The Bison went on to win the 2011 PL title and the automatic bid into the NCAA tournament as Mike Muscala walked away with POY honors. McCollum and the Mountain Hawks wrested both back from Bucknell in March and are determined to make sure that the crown stays on South Mountain for one more year. “There is no such thing as turns,” McCollum said. Many rivalries exist in the competitive Patriot League, but as Lehigh and Bucknell have separated themselves from the pack in the last few seasons the 2-3 annual matchups have taken things to a new level. “We are aware that there is a rivalry there,” Knutson said. “I have put alot of thought into it. Obviously, we won my freshman year, lost my sophomore year and won junior year. I think the winner this year is the one to take it all, because this is the senior year for all of us.” McCollum and the Mountain Hawks face a big time opponent immediately, traveling to Baylor to face Drew’s team (Photo Credit: Baylor Marketing and Communications) Before Coach Brett Reed’s squad can think about league rivals, the Mountain Hawks will have to navigate an independent schedule that starts with the top-20 Baylor Bears in Waco, Texas on Friday and also includes a possible meeting with Pittsburgh in the pre-season NIT, Fordham, North Texas and Virginia Commonwealth. “I think it is very important for us to increase our strength of schedule, as far as travel, and make sure we are getting enough quality road games,” McCollum said. “It helps prepares us for conference play and the conference tournament.” But after knocking off Duke in the 2011 NCAA tournament, Lehigh’s phones were not exactly ringing off the hook from teams seeking to add the veteran Mountain Hawks to the 2012-13 schedule. “It was a unique challenge for us this year because the amount of respect that was gained for our program,” said Reed, in his sixth season as head coach. “We looked nationally for anything that made sense. We were open to most any possibility and were exploring every model to find additional opponents.” “They just were not really available and not interested in playing us at this time. Although it is frustrating, I do take it as a compliment for our program.” The schedule that was finally assembled includes two trips to Texas, which was as close as they could find in attempt to get Mackey McKnight a game near his New Orleans roots. The second trip, to face North Texas, also will allow McCollum to lock horns with another potential NBA selection in the Mean Green’s Tony Mitchell. The two players were among 20 invited to the exclusive LeBron James Skills Academy over the summer in Las Vegas. “We did not want to go from December 8 to December 29 without a game,” said Reed, of the Mountain Hawks stretch exiting exam break. “That was a real possibility for us had we not found the opportunity to play North Texas. It also will give C.J. some additional visibility, as well.” While McCollum’s tenure in the Patriot League may have felt like an eternity for rival coaches, for Reed the time that has elapsed since he arrived as a skinny freshman with a good shot has gone by quickly. “It has been an absolute pleasure to coach him,” Reed said. “He has grown physically, but he has also grown with his leadership and other aspects of his game.” Related Posts:McCollum speakOnly a Patriot League title will do for Mike Muscala and BucknellLehigh and Bucknell clear favorites for Patriot League men’s basketballArena BackgroundsDrew hopes weekend at Fort Hood pays off for Baylor
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Sony cut scenes from 'Concussion' to avoid angering NFL

Ryan Clark: Trent Richardson is 'worst RB of all time'

Report: David Feherty won't be back at CBS Sports

Warren Moon: RG3 needs to start taking the blame

Lovullo: I don’t see Hanley Ramirez playing left field again in 2015

Judge Berman’s one-sentence order repeats Deflategate decision timeline

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Ishmael Adams suspended indefinitely following arrest

McNair: Pats caused problem by not cooperating with Deflategate

Browns terminate contract of Phil Taylor

WWE’s 'Superfly' Jimmy Snuka charged in 30-year-old murder case

Randall Cobb: ‘I don’t plan on missing a game’

Ronda Rousey confirms she was supposed to fight Gina Carano

Report: Bills GM 'went rogue’ in cutting Fred Jackson

Terrance Knighton irked by Redskins-Kardsashians comparison

Connor Cook on not being named Michigan State captain: 'It stinks'

Danny Amendola’s advice to those on roster bubble? ‘Control what you can’

Dallas Cowboys: Rookies to watch

Apple reportedly sought exclusive rights to new Bill Simmons podcast

One of Clemson’s 1981 national championship trophies broke

Milan Lucic says playing with Canucks is ‘dream of mine’

Underdogs: Hopefuls that can shock in the World Cup

WATCH: Victoria Azarenka rips chair umpire at US Open

Bill O’Brien starts charity swear jar for cursing on ‘Hard Knocks’

Dikembe Mutombo teared up when Hawks announced franchise will retire his jersey

Royals dealing with chickenpox outbreak

College Basketball News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Underdogs: Hopefuls that can shock in the World Cup

Manfred digs Shoeless Joe a deeper grave

Why Mike Trout ain't right

The Opening Drive: Jamal Anderson warns UM fans before heading to Salt Lake City

Best and worst MLB players in August

RG3 blames intern for liking Instagram post trashing owner

Four most surprising roster cuts from NFL teams

Raiders cut Trent Richardson

Caroline Wozniacki smoking cover of ‘Rhapsody’

Everett Golson named FSU's starting QB

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker