For two and a half seasons, I’ve been following the men’s basketball team. In this time, I have learned a lot about the team, but the most important thing I’ve gleaned is that they are very unlucky when it comes to injuries.
My freshman year, the 2008-09 season, then-junior point guard Pat Foley led the team with 18 points and six assists for a home victory over Wagner, only to sit out the next seven games with a foot injury. He was arguably the best player on the team at the time, and undoubtedly the most fun to watch, so that seven-game stretch was pretty painful for the Light Blue, as it went 2-5. Injuries were more than common for Foley, who played in only 69 games for Columbia, but there were other Lions who sat on the bench for at least part of that season.
Current senior Brian Grimes missed the whole year because of a knee injury sustained in the first practice—an injury that he is still hampered by today. His classmate Asenso Ampim also spent a significant amount of time recovering from injuries the past two seasons. Max Craig, Niko Scott, and Joe Bova were also hampered by injuries during either the 2008-09 or 2009-10 seasons.
By the time the current season began in November, I had learned to expect injuries to key players at inconvenient times. I winced every time a player rolled his ankle or took a half-second too long to get up after a hard foul. I almost burst a blood vessel yelling at Coach Smith to take Brian Barbour out of the first Cornell game after it appeared he had sprained his ankle. I had seen our starting point guard go down many times before, and I was terrified that it was happening again.
I was wrong, though—Barbour was fine and Columbia beat Cornell for the first time in years, 79-75. In fact, up to that point in the season, the Lions hadn’t suffered any catastrophic injuries. There was a stomach flu at the beginning of the nonconference slate and a few bumps and bruises along the way, but for the most part, the Light Blue was healthy.
But then-sophomore forward John Daniels hurt his left foot in Columbia’s 87-79 defeat at Brown. As Spectator’s men’s basketball beat writer Lucas Shaw pointed out last week (“Daniels’ defense, work rate prove irreplaceable in absence,” Feb. 15), Daniels’ absence has hurt the Light Blue significantly. Daniels is just one player, though, and the Lions were able to defeat Penn and Dartmouth without him, so it seemed as if they had righted the ship.
The injury bug struck again, though, this time taking down sophomore center Mark Cisco. Friday night in Columbia’s 67-60 win over the Big Green, Cisco had five rebounds and two points in just nine minutes of play, but he sat out the whole second half after hitting his head, and did not dress for Saturday’s game against Harvard due to concussion-like symptoms.
Without Cisco and Daniels, the Light Blue really had no chance against the Crimson, which has one of the best frontcourts in the league. Not only did Kyle Casey and Keith Wright combine for 26 of Harvard’s 61 points, but they also destroyed the Lions on the glass, pulling down a combined 21 rebounds. As a team, Columbia only had 18 boards.
While it is unlikely that the Lions would have won even if Cisco and Daniels were healthy, their average of 4.9 and 4.4 rebounds per game, respectively, would have helped the team avoid a 61-42 blowout. Columbia could have also benefited from Cisco’s accuracy around the basket—he leads the team with a field goal percentage of 59.8. Ampim, Craig, and freshman Danny Feldmann got the majority of the minutes up front and combined to go 7-for-19 from the floor.
Cisco will probably be back next weekend, but Daniels is not likely to play. With the Lions heading back on the road to face the Killer P’s, it’s entirely possible that the Light Blue faithful will once again have its spirits crushed by injuries to key players.