Don”t worry, Columbia fans: the greatest basketball player of all time isn”t graduating just yet.
Okay, that”s hyperbole from a Columbia fan. But you can”t deny that “Chairman” Maodo Lo was one of the Ivy League”s best players in the 2014-15 campaign. And, despite rumors out of German media that Lo was declaring for the 2015 NBA draft, the junior guard made it clear on Thursday that he”ll be wearing Columbia blue next year.
“He did go through some preliminary discussions, with the help of coach (Kyle) Smith, to see what his potential pro prospects are, but he had every intention on coming back,” Columbia Sports Information Associate Director Mike Kowalsky said. “They were just doing their due diligence.”
Last season, Chairman turned heads on the big stage against Kentucky and UConn, and put together two of the most dominant individual performances of this decade down the stretch in league play — 33 points against Wesley Saunders and 37 points off an Ivy-record 12 three-pointers against Princeton — en route to first-team All-Ivy honors.
Lo, a junior guard from Berlin, Germany, is expected to lead Columbia in the 2015-16 campaign, which should feature a title challenge for the Lions. With Alex Rosenberg and Grant Mullins returning to complement Lo and Kyle Castlin, the Lions have a talented core that will battle Princeton, Harvard, and Yale for their first tournament birth since 1968.
At the start of the week, though, news reports out of Germany suggested that Lo would declare for the 2015 NBA Draft. The reports, loosely translated, stated that Lo had received “a positive feedback” from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee and that “at least two teams” were interested in the junior.
Now, the instinctive reaction is that this is all a bit nuts. Lo is in a great situation right now — he”s the star of his college team entering his senior year, about to earn an Ivy League degree, and is already a part of his country”s national team setup.
A Lo departure, though, would be a familiar stomach-punch for Columbia. In recent years, they”ve seen Noruwa Agho go down to a season-ending injury and then leave the team, Rosenberg suffer a devastating foot fracture right before his senior year, Mullins miss serious time with a concussion, etc. etc. — not to mention the various heartbreaking ways the Lions somehow concoct to lose games.
Thankfully, though, Lo has decided not to declare for the draft. His statement, released in German on Twitter by the Deutschland Basketball Bund (German National Team), was provided online casino to Ivy Hoops Online in English:
“There has been some speculation about my future over the last couple of days. Right now, my focus is working towards earning my degree and being a part of the Columbia basketball program. I have been working hard with my teammates and coaches throughout the spring and I am excited that I will have the opportunity to participate with the German National Team at the European Championships this summer.”
How did this false rumor come about? It looks like errors in translation came into play. I”m told that Lo did reach out to the NBA to gauge his potential prospects, but never intended to leave. You can see that Lo”s original statement to BIG never says that he”s declaring for the draft:
“I have spoken with my family and with my trainer about these possible step and weighed all the risks and the survey of the committee has brought me additional insight Registration for this year”s draft accounts for the sporting perspective sense … The NBA has always been my biggest dream.”
That”s a Google Translation. I don”t speak German. But the gist seems pretty clear: he wanted to see what his prospects (“sporting perspective sense”) would be, because his long-term goal is the NBA. From there, other outlets turned the story, “whisper down the lane” style, into an announcement that Lo is leaving Columbia.
Will Lo end up in the NBA eventually? Obviously, the odds are somewhat against him — Lo is somewhat undersized, and comes out of both a foreign country and a low-profile Ivy. But he possesses unbelievable quickness, a deadly jumper, and great defensive skills. Lo is also expected to appear for Germany in the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil, which should only help his profile.
The decision date to enter or pull out of the draft is April 26 so Lo still has time to resume exploring his options.
For now, though, the Chairman”s goal is an Ivy League title.
(A sincere thank you to Sam Tydings for running this rumor down with me.)