Columbia Preview: 2008-09

November 22nd, 2008
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2008-09 Columbia Basketball Preview

Lions must replace four starters


Despite returning one of the Ivy League’s best big men and having six player averaging at least six points per game, the Columbia Lions could only muster a tie for fourth place in the final standings. Now with four starters from that team gone head coach Joe Jones has to find some new pieces to fit into the equation, most notably a fill-in for First-Team All-Ivy selection John Baumann. Health will be a key this season as well, most notably that of co-captains Joe Bova and Patrick Foley. Foley, who went down with a shoulder injury early on, was a key to a season that went downhill once he was lost for the year. But in a league that is muddled in the midsection, the Lions could finish slightly higher than their preseason designation of sixth.


General Information


2007-08 Record: 14-15 (7-7 Ivy; t-4th)

Head coach: Joe Jones (63-75 in five seasons)

Assistant coaches: Damien Strahorn, Andrew Theokas, Michael Murphy

Home Court: Levien Gymnasium



Leading Returnees


PPG: Niko Scott (7.7)

RPG: Joe Bova (3.3)

APG: Scott (2.2)

FG%: K.J. Matsui (48.4%)

FT%: Joe Bova (88.9%)

3PT%: Matsui (49.0%)

Assist/TO ratio: Scott (1.39)




He may have only played nine games last season, but make no mistake about it: Patrick Foley may be the most important returnee for the Lions this season. Foley had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.0 in limited action, a season cut short by an injury to his right shoulder. He may be a key to the Lions’ success this season, but also back for another run is senior Niko Scott. Scott, the team’s leading returning scorer, is a player who does the majority of his damage driving to the basket. Similar to Scott in style of play is junior Kevin Bulger, who last year was one of the better bench players in the Ivy last year.


He and senior K.J. Matsui, a three-point specialist (only twenty-two of his field goal attempts came from inside the arc last year) should be solid role players this season as well. Dan Trepanier will also compete for time, but will have to fend off some talented newcomers if he’s to improve upon his 3.9 minutes per game. The incoming class could provide the primary backup for Foley in either Steven Egee (Ridley Park, PA) or Chris Crockett (Columbus, OH), two guards that were two-sport athletes in high school. Crockett is the better scorer of the two despite being 5-10.


The other two freshmen in the backcourt are Matt Johnson (Moorpark, CA) and Noruwa Agho (New City, NY). Although he’s 6-7 Johnson is more than comfortable on the perimeter and has an almost European feel to his game. Agho is a capable defender who can also handle the ball. The newcomers have plenty of talent, but they’ll also have some time to mature thanks the return of so many key cogs.




The major holes to be filled are up front, with the graduation of John Baumann and Ben Nwachukwu. Patrick Bova, who missed a good portion of last season due to back troubles, has a clean bill of health going into this season. Other returnees looking to earn playing time this season are seven-footer Zack Crimmins, Jason Miller and Asenso Ampim. None of these three played more than ten minutes per game last season, and Ampim is coming back from September foot surgery. He should be ready to play, however. This overall lack of experience essentially means that the three newcomers up front will have ample opportunities to earn playing time.


LaSalle transfer Brian Grimes (Phildelphia, PA) is a forward who plays with almost a European influence, being just as comfortable on the perimeter as he is inside. His versatility should add a dimension to the Lion attack, and there were positive reports regarding his play on Columbia’s preseason tour of Europe. And the pair of freshmen now on campus are both swingmen that can add some scoring up front if the Lions decide to go small. Issa Mase (Wilmington, DE) and Blaise Staab (Tulsa, OK) are two players that put up solid rebounding numbers in their final high school seasons despite being 6-5.


Can the Lions exceed preseason expectations and finish higher than sixth in the Ivy? If the frontcourt can mesh and Patrick Foley stays healthy, they very well could. Cornell is the clear favorite to win the conference, and after chief challenger (in the eyes of many) Penn all bets are essentially off at this point. And with Grimes eligible after sitting out his transfer year, the Lions may be able to make up some of the production lost with the graduation of Baumann and Nwachukwu. How much they aren’t able to account for up front will decide just how well their season goes.


Team Stats (conference ranking in parentheses)


PPG: 63.7 (6th)

PPG allowed: 64.1 (1st)

FG%: 42.2% (8th)

FG% defense: 42.2% (1st)

3PT%: 33.2% (4th)

3PT% defense: 30.7% (1st)

FT%: 72.4% (4th)

Rebound margin: +0.6 (1st)

Assist/TO ratio: 0.98 (3rd)