Klebon, Bucknell basketball team ready for dance
LEWISBURG - Former Southern Columbia basketball standout Colin Klebon likely won't be playing much for Bucknell University Thursday when the Patriot League champion Bison (28-5) take on Butler (26-8) in the NCAA Tournament at fabled Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky. But Klebon will be there in uniform for his second NCAA tournament, and doing whatever he can to help the Bison win.
"I'm very excited," Klebon said Monday, a day after the Bison were given an 11th seed spot in the Eastern Regional by the tournament committee. He said this year's team is probably a little more tournament ready than the one that played against Connecticut two years ago.
"I think we're more determined and focused than we were a couple of years ago," Klebon said. "This year we expected to be in it. Last time, we were a little in awe, I think."
Bucknell failed to win the Patriot League tournament last year, but got an NIT bid and did its giant killer thing by upsetting Arizona, and also got to see Lehigh stun Duke in the NCAA tournament in a game the Bison thought they should have been in. That gave this year's team some added juice.
Unfortunately, Klebon has gotten less and less playing time as his career has gone on. The 6-8 senior was recruited by former head coach Pat Flannery, who retired unexpectedly a couple of years ago. Flannery's replacement, Dave Paulsen, hasn't given Klebon as much playing time. Klebon played in 16 games as a freshman, 29 as a sophomore, nine as a junior and only four this season. As a sophomore, he was a key reserve, averaging 1.8 points and 1.3 rebounds per game. This season, he has scored four points and grabbed four rebounds. For his career, he has played in 58 games, scoring 101 points with 70 rebounds.
But getting an engineering degree from one of the highest rated engineering programs in the country makes up for the lack of playing time, Klebon said, as well as the camaraderie he feels at Bucknell.
"It definitely bugs me a little bit," he said. "If it was up to me, I'd be playing a little more. But the best part of Bucknell is the people I've met and the fact that I'll graduate from one of the top five undergraduate engineering programs in the country."
Klebon's father, Dan, who has seen most of Bucknell's games over his son's years and will be making the trip to Lexington with his brother Joe, former Shamokin Area head coach, and Joe's son Kristian, said Colin has adjusted well to seeing his playing time drop.
"After the career he had in high school, it's been tough to watch," Dan said. "But Colin has his priorities in line. His GPA went up when his playing time went down. He became a little more focused academically. He's a hard worker and now he's on the dean's list at a school like Bucknell. He's put a lot of time in with his classwork."
Colin hopes to land a good job after graduation, work a few years, then pursue a graduate degree.
He still feels very much a part of the team, even though his role is different from what it was, Klebon said.
"It's changed a little bit," Klebon said. "There have been times watching games that we lost that I felt like if I had the opportunity, I could have helped us win. Sure, you feel that way but ultimately it's not your decision. You just have to trust your teammates and coaching staff, and put the team and university first."
Klebon's jobs in practice now focus on being part of the scout team defense, setting screens, and encouraging his teammates during drills.
"Plus I get to throw Mike (6-11 star Mike Muscala, a possible NBA draft pick) around a little," he said.
Klebon came to Bucknell as part of a class that included Muscala, Bryson Johnson, Joe Willman and Brian Fitzpatrick, and said Senior Night festivities against Holy Cross in the last regular season home game at Sojka Pavilion were special.
"That was very emotional for me and the other seniors. We've been like brothers since we've been here. Then to get a basket at the end of the game and leave to a standing ovation was really something," he said.
Making the NCAA tournament twice will also be something he'll always remember, he said. Klebon took one shot and made it in the game against UConn in 2011.
"I don't know of many people out there who have been on two NCAA teams, and I don't know of many who have a career shooting percentage of 100 in NCAA games," he joked.