Player to Watch
By Peter Andrews
Here are some sentences that I have written about Maodo Lo in the past year. (No two are from the same article.)
“On Friday night, Maodo Lo showed his class. It’s Maodo Lo’s world, and we’re just living in it … This game should serve as Maodo Lo’s coming-out party for a national audience … Every time the ball left his fingertips, the swoosh seemed a mere inevitability … He remains as cool as a cucumber … No Ivy guard can match Lo’s blazing quickness, and when combined with his dribbling skills he is a nightmare to defend … Don’t worry, Columbia fans: The greatest basketball player of all time isn’t graduating just yet.”
It would be repetitive of me to gush more praise about the Chairman. (Even after another sterling offseason, in which he played a good-sized role on the German National Team. Get the rundown in this article in the Columbia Spectator.)
Frankly, I’m out of creative ways to say it: Lo is the best player I have seen playing for the Light Blue. He’s one of the best college players I’ve seen live, period. Even though there should be more pieces around him this year, Columbia’s title challenge will rest on more massive nights coming from the Chairman.
One of the most intriguing questions of this season for Columbia is how, after a year putting the team on his back, Lo will blend his considerable talents with the returning Alex Rosenberg. The two are both strong shooters who can score at the rim, but their games couldn’t be more different – Lo is all speed and silk, Rosenberg a brutal bulldozer. Lo proved last year that he can carry the entire team if he has to (three 30+ point games in the final six), and the attention he will draw from opposing defenses should create more space for the rest of the offense to do their thing.
Maodo Lo is Columbia’s best player. He might be the Ivy League’s best player.
Will that be enough to hoist the trophy at season’s end?
Players to Watch (Non-Maodo Edition)
By Miles Johnson
The 2015-16 Columbia Lions, like the 2014-15 and arguably, the 2013-14 incarnations, belong to Maodo Lo. Lo was a one-man wrecking crew last season, leading the Ivy League in three-point percentage, true shooting percentage, and effective field goal percentage in Ivy play. Shorter version: Maodo Lo was the best shooter in the Ancient Eight, all while ranking in the top three of all Ivy players in percentage of minutes played and shots taken. The question for the Lions is not so much who Batman is, but more so who is the person who will stand next to Batman to make him more formidable than a rich guy in spandex?
This piece should be about Kyle Castlin. As a freshman last year, Castlin averaged just over 10 points and four rebounds, and scored in double digits in 16 of the Lions’ 28 games. Castlin was a defender who managed to commit fouls at the fifth-fewest rate in Ivy play last year, and will likely take a step forward to emerge as one of the better swingmen in the Ancient Eight. But this can’t be about Kyle Castlin, because Alex Rosenberg exists.
After senior guard Brian Barbour’s career fizzled out in a series of subpar performances due to nagging injuries, Rosenberg stepped in and picked up the slack. And in the next year, 2013, Rosenberg kicked down the metaphorical door and announced his dominance to the Ivy League to the tune of an All-Ivy First Team selection. He then suffered a Jones fracture in October 2014, took an academic leave of absence and is back in his fifth year as the Light Blue’s super senior. Now he’s one of coach Kyle Smith’s biggest question marks. Can he return to his same lane-driving, foul-drawing form? Can he and Lo gel once again, as they did at the end of the 2013-14 season? Where do younger players like Luke Petrasek and Kyle Castlin fit into the rotation now? Admittedly, “What do I do with all this talent?” is a nice problem for a head coach to have.
The biggest factor for the Lions this upcoming season will undoubtedly be their defense, which was one of the League’s worst last year, ranking in the bottom half of the league in three of Ken Pomeroy’s “Four Factors.” If Rosenberg can anchor the power forward position—locking down offensive juggernauts like Yale’s Justin Sears or Princeton’s Hans Brase—he would instantly be considered a huge positive for Columbia. Barring a setback offensively, he could potentially add to the Ivy’s second-best shooting team. Smith even has the option to go super small and play Rosenberg at the center position, freeing up the lane for Castlin drive-and-kicks, To say Columbia’s season lives or dies based on the contributions of Rosenberg would be somewhat exaggerated—this is a team that can compete, especially with the notable departures of players like Javier Duren, Gabas Maldunas and Wesley Saunders. But if Alex Rosenberg is even a fraction of as good as he was the last time he laced up at Levien, Columbia may dare to dream a little bigger this year.
If Alex Rosenberg returns to his old form, the buzz on campus won’t just be about a marquee Harvard game in February. No, if we get the old Alex Rosenberg, Lions fans may want to start getting sized for a pair of glass slippers.