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Columbia's Maodo Lo is ready for the next level, despite long NBA Draft odds

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Maodo Lo led Columbia to one of its best seasons in program history. What is next for the star?

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Rumors circulated after the 2014-15 season that Columbia guard Maodo Lo was considering leaving the Lions to pursue a professional career, but the rumors turned out to be just that: overblown whispers that appear to have stemmed from a translation issue off of a German website. While Lo did at least superficially explore his professional options after his junior campaign, it appears he always intended to return to Columbia.

However, now that his four years of eligibility are up, the time to take the next step is nigh, and there isn't much debating that Lo took advantage of every opportunity afforded to him during his college years and senior campaign to showcase his game.

All told, he led the Columbia Lions to a respectable 25-10 season, good for third place in the Ivy League. While Justin Sears of Yale took Ivy Player of the Year honors, Lo was the only other unanimous choice for First Team All-Ivy. Lo, nicknamed The Chairman, poured in nearly 17 points a game, was the team's top scorer, and led the squad in steals per game. His game attracted attention from NBA scouts that has largely previously eluded the Columbia basketball program.

In particular, Lo shined in a game against the St. Joseph Hawks on Dec. 4, when he faced off against DeAndre Bembry, who is largely projected to be a first-round pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Columbia lost the game by two, 80-78, but over the course of 37 minutes, Lo posted an impressive line of 21 points, two steals, and six assists.

Since the season ended, Lo has worked out for at least two teams (Minnesota and Philadelphia), and has showcased his game in high-profile tournaments like the Portsmouth Invitational, which featured six prospects ranked in the Top 100 on DraftExpress.

Unfortunately for Lo, his performance at Portsmouth was somewhat anticlimactic. In his first game, he scored only five points in 25 minutes, and his performance the next day was similar: no points on 0-4 shooting in 23 minutes. However, Lo brings much more to the table than just scoring. He was praised for his high intensity on defense, an attribute that is especially attractive to European teams. In fact, Lo, a Berlin native, has reportedly been heavily recruited by European clubs for much of the past several years.

The odds of being drafted in to the NBA are stacked against him, with Lo himself calling his chances "unlikely."  The Ivy League is still generally thought of as a low-profile conference, and within the conference, programs such as Harvard and Yale have dominated the headlines. In fact, the last player to play in the NBA from Columbia was Dave Newmark, from 1969 to 1971. But the buck does not stop with the draft. If Lo were to go undrafted, he can continue to fight for a roster spot in summer league play, and could potentially hone his game with a start overseas.