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C.J. McCollum may not return to Lehigh this season

Jan 11, 2013, 9:28 PM EDT

Lehigh Mountain Hawks guard McCollum reacts after making a basket against the Duke Blue Devils during a college basketball game in Greensboro

Lehigh had high hopes entering this season. The Mountain Hawks defeated Duke in the NCAA tournament and returned for the 2012-2013 campaign with preseason All-American C.J. McCollum back for his senior season.

However, last week, in a loss to VCU, the nation’s leading scorer broke his foot, sidelining him for 8-10 weeks. He could be back for the Patriot League tournament, but even if he is ready to go, he may never take the college hardwood again and Lehigh coach Brett Reed is preparing his team that way, according to the Associated Press.

The 6-foot-3 McCollum is a potential first round pick in this June’s NBA Draft and the professional potential he has may keep him out of collegiate action.

“The magnitude of his future – we understand that,” Reed told the AP. “We approach this thing to where he’s fully healed, to reduce all chance of future injury, to ensure longevity of his career.”

“It’s going to be a challenge to replace him. Maybe `replace’ isn’t the right word,” added senior captain, Gabe Knutson. “We have a lot of guys who are willing and able to step up.”

The Patriot League begins Saturday for Lehigh against Holy Cross. The conference favorite entering the season will now be in an even closer battle with Bucknell for the conference title come March. It’s not all doom for Lehigh, in the end they can still go dancing. Reed will have to rely on experience from guy’s who’ve been through last season’s success, such as Knutson, Holden Greiner and Mackey McKnight.

For McCollum, this is the better decision. Like Rob Dauster pointed out earlier in the week, McCollum returned to school for his senior season to not only make another run at the tourney, but to improve his draft stock which he did. Returning this is risky, especially if he re-injuries his foot, hurting all the progress he’s made this season as an NBA prospect.

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne