Klebon playing different role at Bucknell
LEWISBURG - Just as Colin Klebon did during his sophomore year in high school at Southern Columbia, the Bucknell University sophomore expects to be hoisting another basketball championship trophy.
There is one major difference, however.
During Klebon's high school days, he was the big man on campus for the Tigers, leading them to the District 4 Class AA title.
Now, the 6-foot, 8-inch forward's role is to provide depth on a very young and very talented frontline for the Bison.
Klebon will be suited up for the No. 1-seed Bison when they take on visiting Lafayette at Sojka Pavilion in Friday's Patriot League championship game (4:45 p.m., ESPN2) with an NCAA automatic bid going to the winner.
Ironically, it's another sophomore - 6-11 center and Patriot League Player of the Year Mike Muscala - who has led the Bison (24-8) to the regular-season championship and a nine-game winning streak following Sunday's 66-64 semifinal victory over visiting Lehigh. Jon Willman, a 6-7 sophomore, is the other starting frontcourt player in coach Dave Paulsen's three-guard starting lineup.
In the victory over Lehigh, the only true frontcourt reserve to get playing time was 6-8 junior Enoch Andoh, and 6-4 senior swingman G.W. Boon also played. Klebon, 6-8 sophomore Brian Fitzpatrick and 6-9 junior Probese Leo could only watch, squirm and offer encouragement along with the majority of those who packed Sojka despite near-blizzard conditions.
"There have been games when I've played 20 minutes; games when I've played five minutes; and - like tonight - games when I've played zero minutes, but I go into every game prepared to do whatever is needed to help the team," Klebon said after the Bison held off a furious second-half charge by Lehigh.. "My job is to contribute, no matter if those contributions are to play as a member of the scout team to get the starters ready for the game, or if it means coming into a game and contributing on the floor.
"All of us understand what it takes to part of a winning program, and I certainly have no regrets about my decision to come here and be part of one of the best mid-level Division I programs in the country. This is a tremendous atmosphere, but it's sure a lot tougher to watch than play in a tight game like this one tonight.
"This was one of the greatest games I've ever been part of, but I don't think I have any fingernails left. Being able to be part of games like this in this kind of a setting is why I chose Bucknell from a basketball standpoint and academically, it's like No. 2 or 3 in the country for my major of civil engineering."
Southern's all-time scoring leader with 2,230 career points, Klebon has played in 27 games, including an appearance in the 78-51 victory over visiting Army in the league quarterfinals, for a total of 204 minutes. He played in 24 straight before getting the flu and missing the next four games and slipping in the pecking order of frontcourt reserves.
This season has been one of steady improvement over his freshman year, when Klebon played in 16 games for a total of 84 minutes. His career high of 11 points came last year against LaSalle, while this year's season's best was eight points against Princeton.
After hitting 9-of-28 field goal attempts, 7-of-11 foul shots and getting 19 rebounds as a freshman, this season Klebon is 20-of-44 from the floor, 10-of-17 from the line and has 38 rebounds. Some of his most satisfying efforts, however, have come in practice when he is matched up against Muscala - whose 17-point, 10-rebound performance against Lehigh was highlighted by two clutch foul shots with eight seconds left for a 66-62 lead.
"I've played against Mike all year, and he's the toughest guy I've faced, and that includes anybody from Marquette, Villanova and everyone else we've played," Klebon said. "When Coach Paulsen recruited us and brought us here we knew there would be a lot of competition for playing time, and over the summer I'll do pretty much what I did last year and work hard to improve.
"Typically, my Mondays through Fridays is getting up at 6 a.m., driving over here to do strength and conditioning workouts and playing pickup games. That's pretty much the same for all of us, and that's not going to change."
So, while his role has changed, Klebon's passion and desire for the game remains the same. And, the only other change he wants is getting the opportunity for more minutes in the future.