Lehigh head men’s basketball coach Brett Reed announced the additions of Noel Hightower and Michael McCready to the Mountain Hawks’ staff. A recent graduate from Chestnut Hill University, Hightower takes over as the team’s director of basketball operations while McCready, a Kutztown graduate, will serve as the video coordinator. Last week, Reed also announced the hiring of Austen Rowland as an assistant coach.
A 2004 Lehigh graduate and member of the Patriot League 25th Anniversary Team, Rowland was a Patriot League Champion and Player of the Year in his time donning the Brown and White.
“Austen is one of the top players in our history to have come out of our program,” said Reed. “He has excelled on the court. He has been recognized as one of the top players in the history of the Patriot League. I believe his competitive excellence will give him a tremendous platform to be able to reach our student-athletes and prospective student-athletes.”
As a player at Lehigh, Rowland enjoyed one memorable season in the Brown and White, earning Patriot League Player of the Year and Tournament MVP in 2003-04 as Lehigh won its first-ever Patriot League Championship. A transfer from Delaware, Rowland scored 1,230 points over his collegiate career (which would stand 20th in school history). Rowland led the league with 15.5 points per game in his senior season at Lehigh. He was also an AP Honorable Mention All-American that year.
After graduation, Rowland went on to a 12-year professional career in Europe (Germany, France, Austria and Finland) where he was consistently one of the best in his league in assists. Most recently, he finished 2014-15 second in assists in the Finnish First League Korisliiga. He also earned the assist title in the French Pro B League in 2013-14 while finishing in the top ten in scoring that season as well. In his early days as a professional, Rowland won a 2009 Austrian Cup Championship and earned the assist title in the German First League in 2006-07.
“Austen has walked the walk of our players,” said Reed. “He’s experienced the challenges of Lehigh and also the joys of this great institution. That will give him immediate credibility and a tremendous platform to provide guidance, mentoring and leadership.”
Hightower is a 2016 graduate of Chestnut Hill, where he was a two-sport student-athlete. He won the Athletic Director’s Award, given annually to the male and female student-athlete who best demonstrates dedication to the mission of the College and excels in his or her sport of choice.
As a senior, Hightower averaged 6.1 points and a team-high 8.3 rebounds per game while serving as the heart and soul of the Griffins’ defense. For his career, he ranks second in school history in rebounds (577), second in offensive rebounds (225), fifth in defensive rebounds (352), seventh in rebounds per game (5.4), second in blocks (114) and fifth in steals (128). Hightower shot 53.4 percent from the field as a senior (63-of-118). He was also a standout track and field athlete, highlighted by winning a CACC Individual Championship in 2015 in the 110-meter hurdles.
Hightower has shown tremendous leadership, serving as a three-year captain. He was also a member of Chestnut Hill College’s Diversity Committee, vice president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, Presidential Leadership Award winner and the 2015 conference representative at the NCAA Leadership Forum.
Hightower has basketball experience outside of playing, which includes serving as a camp counselor at Lehigh’s summer camps from 2013 through 2015. He was Director of a 3 vs. 3 Basketball Tournament, where he managed the tournament’s operations, and assisted in game management at Chestnut Hill athletic events.
“Noel Hightower has impressed me with every interaction that I’ve had with him over the years,” said Reed. “My first introduction with Noel was through our basketball camp where he worked as a counselor. Noel was one of our hardest workers, always sacrificed to fit in and help wherever there was a need. He had incredible ability to connect with the kids of our camp.”
Meanwhile, McCready comes to Lehigh from University of the Sciences, a strong Division II program, where he was an assistant coach. He assisted in practice coordination, film breakdown and player workouts while also assisting in the recruiting process. He helped lead the team to a 17-12 record in 2015-16, reaching the CACC Semifinals. Prior to that position, McCready was a volunteer assistant for his alma mater Kutztown University, where he was on the basketball team, graduating in 2014 with his Bachelor of Science in Leisure and Sports Studies with a minor in coaching.
McCready is familiar to the Bethlehem area, serving as a volunteer assistant coaching at his former high school, Freedom. He was responsible for practice coordination, skill enhancement and player development while assisting and coordinating local Freedom Basketball camps. McCready has other basketball experience with the Brooklyn Nets, serving as an operations intern.
As a collegiate player, he won the Senior Award at Kutztown while garnering the Lehigh Valley Small College Basketball Media Organization Unsung Hero Award. He has coached at Lehigh’s summer camps as well.
“We are pleased that Mike has decided to join our staff,” said Reed. “His experiences as an assistant at the college level, plus his stint with the Brooklyn Nets organization, have provided a great foundation for this next step in his career.”
Lehigh finished the 2015-16 season with a 13-5 league record, making it all the way to the Patriot League Championship Game. The 13 league victories marked a school record while Lehigh played multiple NCAA Tournament teams in its nonleague schedule. The Mountain Hawks return four of their five starters next season, all who earned postseason Patriot League recognition.