Lehigh's Schaefer has been cool under pressure

Freshman guard played well in first college start Sunday

Lehigh coach Brett Reed decided it was time to have a 1-on-1 meeting with freshman guard Corey Schaefer after Friday's practice.

The timing may have seemed good considering Schaefer was going to be making his first college start two days later at rival Lafayette.

But it was about much more than that.

Schaefer had taken a step back in his development. It wasn't the freshman wall many first-year players endure.

The 6-foot-2 Iowa native lost a bit of his mental edge, that one that allowed him to start logging 20 minutes a game since the season opener at St. John's.

Reed wanted to address it before the season got away from Schaefer.

"I told him, 'You're being a little passive in practice as of late,'" Reed recalled. '"Mackey [McKnight, Lehigh's starting point guard] has been playing very well. It seems as if you've taken a step slightly back to be comfortable. I want you to continue to play as aggressively as I've seen you [previously].'"

Schaefer got the message and it showed Sunday.

The point guard had nine points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals in a career-high 35 minutes. He also committed just one turnover as Lehigh had only seven — its second-lowest total of the season.

Schaefer's two baskets were 3-pointers during key stretches in the second half. They both came after his laser pass to an unsuspecting teammate didn't connect with 14 minutes, 50 seconds left in what became a 90-76 Lehigh victory.

"From what I've been able to learn about Corey in my time recruiting and coaching him, he has a very high basketball IQ, generally doesn't get rattled and has a quiet, internal confidence which is nice to see," Reed said.

Schaefer's teammates weren't surprised by his performance. They've come to expect it.

"It is comforting knowing he is not going to turn the ball over," junior captain C.J. McCollum said. "That gives us more confidence in him. The fact that he can shoot helps a lot.

"I wasn't worried at all."

Schaefer's performance Sunday certainly gives the Mountain Hawks confidence knowing that if McKnight slips up again — he was suspended for the Lafayette game for a violation of team rules — that there is a more-than-capable player waiting in the wings.

McKnight was suspended one game last season as a freshman as well as for a huge chunk of the Patriot League tournament semifinal against Bucknell for similar reasons.

The 6-footer is expected to return Thursday against visiting Navy.

Schaefer's background gave his teammates and coaches a hint of his abilities, particularly for the position he plays on the floor.

"I always tell him that he's a typical coach's son," McCollum said. "He doesn't make mistakes, he can shoot and he's a smart player."

Schaefer, whose dad, Denis, is in his 14th season as head coach at Grand View College, an NAIA school in Iowa, has taken that label to another level.

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