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Lehigh's Phila. forward doesn't fear Kansas

The dictionary defines selfless as being "devoted to others' welfare or interests and not one's own." Selfless people can be extremely important to the success of their team or group.

The dictionary defines


as being "devoted to others' welfare or interests and not one's own."

Selfless people can be extremely important to the success of their team or group.

Zahir Carrington fits that description for 16th-seeded Lehigh, which faces No. 1 Kansas tonight in an NCAA Midwest Regional first-round game in Oklahoma City.

The 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward was a Patriot League preseason first-team pick. But in true Carrington fashion, he took a backseat to standout freshman guard C.J. McCollum.

When the West Oak Lane resident isn't assisting McCollum, he mentors inner-city youths in the Allentown and Bethlehem area.

"I feel like I am blessed being at a place that I am at," Carrington said. "I have no problem giving back in whatever way I can.

"Usually for me, the biggest thing is time. It takes absolutely nothing for me to spend some time with a younger kid or just talk to somebody."

Through his Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, Carrington volunteers in the Boys to Manhood program, mentoring middle school and high school males who have criminal records and/or struggle academically.

The Masterman graduate also participates in the Community Outreach by Athletes who Care by Helping program through Lehigh's athletic department.

"C.O.A.C.H. is just going down to middle schools and high schools and talking on the basis of hard work and leadership," he said. "It's a little more community-based."

More than just a hoopster who lends a helping hand, Carrington has a 3.17 grade-point average with a double major in sociology and social psychology. The three-year starter, with 1,243 career points, hopes to play professionally overseas next season.

Carrington leads this season's team in rebounding (6.7 per game) and ranks third in scoring (10.8 ppg.). McCollum, the Patriot League player of the year, is the nation's top-scoring freshman (18.9 ppg.).

However, Carrington's performance in the league's tournament final is what sent Lehigh to the NCAA tourney.

He collected 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots in the 74-59 victory over Lafayette and was named the tournament's MVP.

"If basketball doesn't work out, of course, I'm going to further advance my degree," he said. "Get my master's in sociology and eventually a Ph.D., and hopefully one day become a professor."

Masterman coach John Gannon always knew that Carrington would excel on and off the court in college. He isn't surprised that his former player is mentoring youths in the Lehigh Valley.

"He's just a wonderful person," Gannon said. "He's just a great, great person. Everybody loved him while he was here."

Perhaps showing loyalty to Carrington, the coach picked Lehigh to advance to the Final Four.

First, the Mountain Hawks (22-10) must do the unthinkable by upsetting the Jayhawks (32-2), the tournament's top overall seed.

Carrington will play against sophomore twins and Philadelphia natives Marcus and Markieff Morris for the first time since high school.

The Morrises played for the Prep Charter teams that knocked Masterman out of the Public League playoffs during Carrington's junior and senior seasons.

"I never beat them in a high school game," he said.

Carrington expects to win today, though.

"We are not coming down here just to play and get beat up on," he said. "We are coming to win."

But Carrington's legacy won't be defined by the outcome of this game.

"He's a dynamite person," said Marvin DeBois, Carrington's former Positive Image AAU coach.

"He is the type of guy that will be the mayor of Philadelphia in 20 years."