Klebon still committed at Bucknell

Sitting courtside at Bucknell men’s basketball games, it’s easy to look across the Sojka Pavilion floor at the Bison bench. There, near the end of the row of padded chairs, sits senior Colin Klebon.

Klebon played in just his third game of the season on Sunday afternoon when he entered the game against Holy Cross on Senior Day after the student section chanted his name and head coach Dave Paulsen inserted him into the the game with 3:36 remaining.

It was a rare opportunity for him to step into live-game action and play in front of over 3,000 fans. Most of those fans groaned as Klebon missed his first shot, collected an offensive rebound and missed again. They nearly talked the 6-foot-8 forward into attempting his third career 3-pointer, but he decided against it after a second or two of deliberation.

“I probably would have taken that three if that was my first look,” Klebon said after Sunday’s game, “but since I shot twice already I wanted to make sure I got a layup or something.”

Forty-five seconds after he entered the game, Klebon made good on his next layup opportunity and it brought an appreciative roar from the crowd. The two points gave Klebon career points No. 100 and 101.

The two points were inconsequential to the game’s outcome, a 74-57 Bucknell win that gave the Bison firm control of first place in the Patriot League, but they added another layer of emotion during an unforgettable day that saw Klebon’s senior class tie the program record of 87 wins set by the Class of 2007.

Yes, the majority of Klebon’s appeal at Bucknell is that he is a local kid done well at the Division I level. But his story should be told in a children’s novel and placed amongst elementary school libraries across the country.

It’s a story of someone who never quit. Not on himself. Not on his teammates. Not on his coaches.

Klebon played in 16 games as a freshman and a career-high 29 his sophomore season. His playing time decreased to nine games in 2011-12 and just three this year. In those three games, Klebon has been credited with six minutes.

It would have been easy for the high school all-state player who rarely came off the floor minus foul trouble or blowouts on his way to becoming Southern Columbia’s all-time leading scorer with 2,230 points to call it a basketball career and concentrate his time on his civil engineering major.

Few probably would have blinked an eye.

It has become the norm these days to walk away. High school programs are losing their freshmen basketball teams due to not only budget constraints but also a lack of participation.

What we need are more players like Klebon.

It’s OK for parents to point out and have their kids look up to players like Mike Muscala, who leads the NCAA in doubles-doubles, Bryson Johnson, Bucknell’s all-time leader in 3-point goals, or Joe Willman, a career 1,000-point scorer who plays with the grit of a honey badger.

It’s OK for youngsters to wear the jerseys of the three players mentioned above and want their autographs after games.

But don’t forget to tell the stories of players like Klebon that will never see their jerseys fill the clothes racks of bookstores. It’s a lesson that is too often untold.