Columbia issued a statement from head coach Kyle Smith announcing the departure of senior guard Meiko Lyles and sophomore forward Zach En’Wezoh from the Columbia basketball program.
Smith’s statement reads as follows:
“Meiko Lyles and Zach En’Wezoh have decided to leave the program. They both will remain enrolled at Columbia. Meiko decided to take his last year and focus on his academics and securing a job after graduation. Zach’s situation is more medical. He has battled through a series of injuries since he’s been here and, despite his best efforts, does not believe his body can make it through the rigors of another season. Meiko and Zach have been great representatives of our program. We respect and support both of their decisions and wish them nothing but the best.”
While the sting of En’Wezoh’s departure will be mitigated by Columbia’s deep frontcourt, the loss of Lyles is a big one for a program universally thought to be on the rise following last season’s 21-13 finish. Lyles came on strong down the stretch in the regular season last year, hitting a game-winning three to give the Lions a win at Princeton, posting 21 points on 80 percent shooting from the field in a 70-68 win against Brown and providing solid perimeter defense on a consistent basis.
Lyles’s absence will put pressure on freshman guards Kyle Castlin and Nate Hickman to contribute in perhaps greater roles than previously expected, but Lyles’s tight defense will be missed regardless. His D was a factor in Miles Jackson-Cartwright and Tony Hicks’s combined 3-for-15 performance from the field for Penn at Levien Gym late in the season and he helped contain Armani Cotton in Columbia’s 16-point win over Yale.
But that win over Yale may also provide an answer for how replace Lyles going forward.
Steve Frankoski notched 17 points off the bench against the Bulldogs, and the senior guard will have to help fill Lyles’s shoes in 2014-15.