Lehigh guard Brett Eppehimer, once told he was too short to play college basketball, is the nation's No. 6 scorer. Four years ago, Brett Eppehimer had only one option to play Division I basketball. Even though the offer came from Lehigh, a team that had finished 11-16 the year before, Eppehimer had no choice but to take it. Even with an average of 21 points and seven assists per game in high school, Eppehimer's 5'11" stature caused many Division I schools to look the other way. "I really didn't get recruited by anyone," Eppehimer said. "I guess people were scared off by my size." Lehigh, in the middle of a rebuilding process, took a gamble on Eppehimer. After combining for only five wins in Eppehimer's first two seasons, Lehigh made a giant leap in the quest to gain respect last season, finishing 10-17 -- increasing their win total ten-fold from the previous year. Eppehimer, a major factor in the Engineers' improvement, gained national recognition, finishing the season ranked No. 4 nationally in scoring at 24.7 points per game. "I think if you are going to look for a key to what made Brett the player he is, you would look at him," Lehigh coach Sal Mentesana said. "He put it in his mind that he was going to be a heck of a player, and he has not let anything stand in his way." A player of focus and determination, Eppehimer is a great motivator for the rest of his team. This past summer, Eppehimer spent at least six hours a day working out and playing basketball. "Brett has given us something to build around," Mentesana said. "He is a great role model for the younger players coming in to see how hard he works." The 1997-98 First Team All-Patriot League honoree's success, especially on the scoreboard, has come with its fair share of criticism. Eppehimer, a 39 percent field goal shooter, takes a large percentage of Lehigh's total shots, including more than one-third of the Engineers' opportunities through five games this season. "Most of their stuff is run for Eppehimer," Penn guard Michael Jordan said. "They run a lot of sets for him to shoot, and he shoots a lot." While Mentesana agrees that the Engineers' offense might seem easy to defend, he argues that the reality is quite different. "Brett is harder to stop than you might think," Mentesana said. "We have seen a couple of teams run a box-and-one on us, and that didn't work." Eppehimer feels a lot of his success comes from the environment that Mentesana creates for the team. "He gives you the freedom to go out and play," Eppehimer said. "It gives me confidence not having to look over my shoulder after every play." This season Eppehimer has continued his scoring frenzy, averaging 25.2 points per game -- fifth in the country. However, the senior guard's shooting percentages have dropped, including a dismal 27.5 percent from three-point range. "Brett has suffered from an inflamed heel," Mentesana said. "He has missed a lot of practices lately. We are waiting for exams so he can get seven or eight days of rest." Eppehimer, who has as good of a shot beyond the arc as inside it, has found many teams defending him well beyond the three-point line this season. Able to bench over 320 pounds with his 183-pound frame, the senior guard does not feel intimidated by any opposing teams' big men. He has simply brought his game closer to the basket. "They have been coming out with double and triple coverage on my three-point shot, so I have been going to the basket a little more." Eppehimer said. Lehigh's opponents have paid for Eppehimer's inside penetration. An 87 percent career free throw shooter, Eppehimer has already taken 57 shots from the line this season.Comments powered by Disqus
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