Lehigh guard and preseason All-American C.J. McCollum said rehabilitation for a broken left foot is going well, and that he’s recently been working out in a pool.
But McCollum, a star senior and graduate of GlenOak High School, gave no indication in a statement of whether he’s hoping to return to the court this year for the Mountain Hawks.
McCollum was hurt four weeks ago during a 59-55 loss at Virginia Commonwealth. He said this has been a “humbling and maturing experience,” but he’s focusing on academics and becoming a better student of the game.
McCollum, at the time of his injury, was leading the country in scoring at 25.7 points.
Still, Lehigh (15-5, 5-1 Patriot) bounced back with five consecutive victories since McCollum went down, including a 65-62 win Wednesday at league rival Bucknell, before losing to Lafayette.
McCollum canceled a scheduled news conference before the Lafayette game, saying he didn’t want “to be a distraction or deflect attention that rightfully belongs to my team. I am focusing on my academics and being the best supporter I can for my teammates. The focus should be on them and the success we’re having as a program.”
The injury, he added, may have been a “blessing in disguise ... This has been a very humbling and maturing experience and this adversity will only make me stronger.”
McCollum and Lehigh gained notoriety after stunning powerhouse Duke in the NCAA Tournament last season. His injury was thought to be a blow to Lehigh’s chances to win the Patriot League and return to the NCAAs.
But the Mountain Hawks still have savvy veterans from last year’s run including senior forwards Gabe Knutson and Holden Greiner, and junior guard Mackey McKnight. They re-branded themselves the conference favorites after beating the Bison on the road.
The school had said McCollum’s recovery time of eight to 10 weeks could make him available again by early March, in time for the Patriot League tournament. The team has also warned that could depend on the healing process, and coach Brett Reed has said McCollum’s long-term future takes precedence.
McCollum, who has averaged 21.3 points over his Lehigh career, has been considered a potential first-round pick in the NBA Draft. Last March, he scored 30 points when 15th-seeded Lehigh upset Duke 75-70.
“Everything is going well and I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback from trainers and team physicians,” McCollum said. “I will continue to be a positive influence on them, helping in every way possible from the sideline.”