After finishing third in the Ivy Group behind Yale and Princeton in the 2015-16 season, Columbia will enter the 2016-17 season as a team in transition. The Lions have lost three of their top performers: Maodo Lo recently signed a deal with the Brose Baskets (a German professional team), Grant Mullins will play as a graduate transfer student at California, and Alex Rosenberg graduated after taking a season off and playing his last season of eligibility in 2015-16.
The Lions will rely heavily on returning rotation players Luke Petrasek, Jeff Coby and Kyle Castlin. Rising senior Petrasek had a breakout year with the Lions in 2015-16, having been sidelined by illness for a significant portion of his sophomore campaign. Petrasek was aggressive on the boards, nabbing 4.5 rebounds a game, and with the absence of Lo, Mullins, and Rosenberg, Petrasek is currently the Lions lead scorer.
Coby was the Lions’ lead rebounder last season, and was the first Columbia player to record consecutive double-doubles since 2013 graduate Mark Cisco. The Lions will certainly be looking for ways to put points on the board, and will need Coby to up his production from his current clip of 5.8 points per game.
Castlin started off strong during his debut season at Columbia in 2014, averaging 10 points a game and 4 rebounds. Due to the depth at the guard spot last season, Castlin saw his minutes reduce from nearly 27 to 17, and his productivity lessened as a result. Castlin finished last season 4.8 points and 2.5 rebounds. With the absence of Lo and Mullins, Castlin should see his minutes increase again.
The incoming freshman classes of Harvard and Yale have generated a lot of buzz, but Columbia will also need to rely on its newcomers if they are to remain a competitor in the Ivy Group. The Lions welcome four freshman on to their roster: forward Andrew Panayiotou, forward Patrick Tape, guard Mike Smith, and guard Jake Killingsworth.
Panayiotou is an Australian 6’7” wingman, and joins Columbia with a decorated high school career. Panayiotou racked up three state championships with the Victoria Metro, and averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds in his last season with the team.
Smith chose Columbia over fellow Ivy League competitor Dartmouth, and other mid major foes, Drake and Loyola, and finished second in voting for Mr. Basketball Illinois to Charlie Moore, who committed to California. Smith is a 5’9” guard with strong distribution skills, and explosive scoring ability.
Killingsworth led his high school team to its first ever state championship, and won his league’s player of the year award after posting an impressive line of 14 points per game on 54 percent shooting, 11 rebounds per game and 3 assists per game.
Finally, Tape is an athletic 6’9” forward, with tremendous athletic ability, who guided his high school team to a conference championship in 2016.
Yale and Harvard’s incoming freshman classes have grabbed headlines, with Harvard’s team landing on the Top 25 list of highest ranked in the country. However, Columbia has a pretty good group of its own and with some key returners for this season, looks to be rebuilding for the future.