Jeff Neiburg (@Jeff_Neiburg)
Lehigh's resurgence from a 1-4 start to the Patriot League's third seed heading into conference tournament play can largely be attributed to the underclassmen duo of sophomore Tim Kempton and freshman Kahron Ross.
And when the Patriot League announced its end of season award winners, the two Mountain Hawks were rewarded handsomely.
Kempton, a Scottsdale, Ariz. native, was named the Patriot League Player of the Year just a year after taking home Rookie of the Year honors in 2013-14. The 6-foot-11 center posted averages of 15.1ppg and 8.6rp, good for sixth and first in the conference, respectively. He's registered 13 double-doubles this season and has scored in double figures in 19 consecutive games.
Kempton becomes the fourth Lehigh player to win the Player of the Year award. C.J. McCollum (2012, 2010) and Austen Rowland (2004) previously won the award as Mountain Hawks.
“It was a goal of mine coming into this season just with what happened last year and how my summer played out," Kempton said. "It’s not something I got too worked up about to the point where I didn’t even know I won it. One of my friends called me, it was on Twitter or something like that.”
Ross, a Jonesboro, Ark. native, becomes the second straight Lehigh player to win the Rookie of the Year award. He earned the starting point guard role to start the season and has flourished ever since. The 5-foot-11 Ross led the Patriot League in assists with 5.8 per game to go along with 10.4ppg. He was also named to the conference's Third-Team Monday.
In last week's blowout win over top-seeded Bucknell, Ross posted a double-double - his fourth of the year - with 15 points and 10 assists.
“He’s established a team that is pretty youthful and, despite his youth, he’s really given us a solid presence,” Lehigh coach Brett Reed said of Ross after that game.
"I think when you start thinking about the impact that Kahron has had, it becomes pretty evident that this guy has really made a mark on our team in one of the most difficult positions in college basketball to try to step into.”
Ross had to take over a job left by Mackey McKnight, who was Second-Team All-Patriot League in his senior year last year.
"Kahron has developed into the player we thought he was going to come in and be," Kempton said. "Being able to play alongside him and go from a guard like Mackey McKnight to a guard like Kahron Ross and kind of not miss a beat. Kahron came in and provided the same offense and the same passing ability that Mackey had, plus more."
Lehigh begins its postseason against sixth-seeded American at home at Stabler Arena Thursday night. A win could set up a rematch with No. 2 Colgate, which beat Lehigh in the regular season finale on Saturday, 61-55.
“During this time of year and during the craziness that we had in the regular season, our goal is just to win one game at a time," Kempton said. "Paying attention to the Patriot League you know that anyone could beat any team on any given night.”
Lafayette senior forward Dan Trist joined Kempton on the conference's First-Team. Senior Seth Hinrichs and sophomore Nick Linder were named to the Third-Team for the Leopards, who open up as the fourth seed in the Patriot League tournament with a game against No. 5 Boston University at home Thursday night.
Here is the complete list of awards given out Monday by the Patriot League, which has its conference tournament beginning tomorrow.
2014-15 Men's Basketball All-Patriot League Teams and Major Awards
Player of the Year: Tim Kempton, Lehigh (So., F/C)
Defensive Player of the Year: Luke Roh, Colgate (Sr., G)
Rookie of the Year: Kahron Ross, Lehigh (Fr., G)
Coach of the Year: Dave Paulsen, Bucknell
First-Team All-Patriot League
Chris Hass, Bucknell (Jr., G)
Tim Kempton, Lehigh (So., F/C)*
Damon Sherman-Newsome, Colgate (Sr., G)
Worth Smith, Navy (Sr., F)
Dan Trist, Lafayette (Sr., F)*
*Unanimous first-team choice
Second-Team All-Patriot League
Pee Wee Gardner, American (Sr., G)
Cedric Hankerson, Boston University (So., G)
Ethan Jacobs, Colgate (Sr., C)
Malcolm Miller, Holy Cross (Sr., F)
Tanner Plomb, Army (Jr., F)
Third-Team All-Patriot League
Seth Hinrichs, Lafayette (Sr., F)
Nick Lindner, Lafayette (So., G)
Jesse Reed, American (Jr., G)
Kahron Ross, Lehigh (Fr., G)
Kyle Wilson, Army (Jr., G/F)
Nana Foulland, Bucknell (Fr., C)
Cam Gregory, Loyola Maryland (Fr., F)
Cheddi Mosely, Boston University (Fr., G)
Kahron Ross, Lehigh (Fr., G)
Andre Walker, Loyola Maryland (Fr., G)