Ivy Hoops Online reported Monday that Dartmouth guard Brendan Barry would miss the 2019-20 season due to injury. The Ancient Eight suffered its second major hit of the week Thursday when news broke that Columbia’s Gabe Stefanini injured his left foot and would be having surgery on Friday. Columbia Athletics confirmed the news to IHO later in the day.
Unlike with Barry’s injury, it is unclear how much time Stefanini will miss.
There is no official timetable for Stefanini’s return, but Basketball NCAA editor Riccardo De Angelis, places it at three to five months. If the timetable is correct and the junior guard’s recovery goes optimally well, he could return in time for the end of the Lions’ nonconference schedule against Maine on January 2 and Mount St. Vincent on the 9th to get ready for the Ivy opener at home against Cornell on the 18th.
The Lions, one of three Ancient Eight teams that have failed to make it to the Ivy Tournament, are expected to compete for a top four spot this season. The Light Blue & White, which finished last year in seventh place with a 5-9 record, welcome the return of senior guard Mike Smith from a season-ending injury suffered in the eighth game of the season. Smith, a 2018 second team All-Ivy selection (17.6 points and 4.6 assists per game), and senior big man Patrick Tape (11.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, 67% shooting), a 2019 All-Ivy honorable mention, looked to join Stefanini in making a run to Ivy Madness IV in March.
Stefanini, who is from Bologna, Italy, arrived in Morningside Heights from nearby Bergen Catholic High School in northern New Jersey in the fall of 2017. He had modest success in his first year, averaging 5.9 points and 13.1 minutes per game in the team’s 27 contests. His second year, however, proved to be a breakout season.
Despite having to alter his game by moving from shooting guard to the point following Smith’s early season injury, Stefanini rose to the occasion to become one of the Ivy’s biggest stars. He was first in the conference in assists (4.1 assists per game), third in steals (1.5 steals per game), eighth in scoring (13.8 points per game) and 11th in rebounds (5.3 rebounds per game), completing the season as a member of the All-Ivy second team. He had a career-high 33 points against FIU, 27 versus Penn and 26 points over 49 minutes in the team’s triple overtime classic at Harvard. He also put up 20 points and 10 assists at Penn, becoming the first Columbia player to accomplish that feat.
Stefanini continued his strong play in the offseason, playing for Italy in the FIBA U20 European Championship in Israel. While his team finished 13th out of 16 teams, the Lions’ leader ended the tournament second in points (19.6 points per game) and 10th in assists (four assists per game).
While Stefanini, Columbia and the Lions’ faithful hope for a successful surgery and quick recovery, things will be more complicated if it takes longer. At that point, Stefanini will need to make a decision whether to return for a portion of the Ivy schedule and help the Lions make a push for a postseason spot or stay off the court for the entire year and maintain the year of eligibility for a possible graduate transfer season in 2021-22.