Ivy Leaguer, international veteran Maodo Lo takes unique road to NBA draft

Ivy Leaguer, international veteran Maodo Lo takes unique road to NBA draft

Columbia guard Maodo Lo took the court at Philadelphia College for Osteopathic Medicine on Friday with five players from highly touted basketball programs (see workout notebook). Five players from programs that have appeared in an NCAA Tournament a lot more recently than Lo’s alma mater.

Yet Lo appeared to fit right in.

Lo, who played his college ball at Columbia, was one of six players in the Sixers' pre-draft workout Friday morning, showing off his point guard abilities just days after graduating from college. Playing in the Ivy League, Lo was a catalyst in the Lions' offense for the last four years, averaging over 14 point per game each of the last three years.

His best offensive season came during his junior year after the team's previous leading scorer, Alex Rosenberg, went down with a preseason injury and Lo was asked to carry the load. The 6-foot-3 guard roared through Ivy competition, scoring 18.4 points per game while making over 43 percent of his threes that season.

For most college players, particularly in the Ivy League, what follows junior year is a period of rest and recovery before one final season. But not so for Lo.

A native of Berlin, Germany, he played for the German national team in EuroBasket 2015 alongside NBA veterans like Dirk Nowitzki and Dennis Schroder. Lo's role grew as the tournament went on, but Germany was unable to make it out of the group stages.

Still, the experience left an impression on the young guard.

"It's unbelievable," Lo said. "Dirk Nowitzki is a Hall of Famer. He's one of the greatest players to ever play basketball. To be around him, you learn a lot and Dennis Schroder is a great up-and-coming talent who is a really nice guy and has helped me out a lot. We have a really good relationship and he gives me a lot of tips."

Lo's soft-spokeness off the court often masks his unique background. His father is from Senegal and his mother is a world-renowned painter and sculptor from Germany. In a New York Times profile, his mother described him as an "artist with a basketball," an apt description for a creative scorer looking to make his way into professional basketball.

"My mother has been a big influence in my life obviously,” Lo said. “Basketball is an elegant sport. It’s nice to watch. I think there’s comparisons that basketball players are artists as well just as much as any other artistic craft. I hope to reach that elegance that my mother is able to demonstrate with her art as well.”

Part of Lo's craft comes from his intelligence on the court. The first thing Sixers director of basketball operations/scouting innovation Vince Rozman mentioned about Lo was "he's a bright kid." He is, after all, a newly minted Columbia graduate coming from a diverse background.

One of his teammates in 3-on-3 drills during Friday's workout, Baylor's Taurean Prince, echoed Rozman's sentiment.

"He's real smart," Prince said. "He makes pretty crisp decisions and he shoots the ball really well."

At 6-foot-3, Lo will likely need to run the point to make it at the next level. While he displayed his jumper and ball-handling ability Friday, he has an important adjustment ahead of him moving out of coach Kyle Smith's Princeton offense at Columbia.

"It's a sharing offense," Lo said of Columbia's offense. "You share the ball a lot. I think as an unselfish player, that's an offense that really plays to your benefit.

"But the NBA, as a point guard, you have the ball in your hands a lot, so that's the next step I have to make, get back to being comfortable with the ball in my hands more and making plays off pick and rolls. Obviously it's a very effective offense that helped us win games in college."

With that adjustment in mind comes a simple question: For a player who has already made a name for himself in Europe and could have gone pro at a younger age, why go to the NCAA and Columbia in the first place?

"Education," Lo said. "Education is very important to me. It always has been. I love basketball. Basketball is my life and my passion, but at some point in your life, it's good to have something else. In Europe, you can't combine both academics and athletics."

The Sixers' workout was Lo's second after the Minnesota Timberwolves previously brought him in. But just like his background and his playing overseas the last few years, Lo's NBA draft process has been anything but ordinary thus far.

"I just graduated," Lo said. "It's been less typical, I would say. Players are able to go to their agencies and their facilities. I just came off of finals and graduation, so this whole process is beginning for me now and I'm very excited to get it started."

Sixers recall center Tiago Splitter from D-League

Sixers recall center Tiago Splitter from D-League

The Sixers added some much-needed frontcourt depth Monday, recalling veteran center Tiago Splitter from the D-League.

Splitter, 32, averaged 6.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in two games with the Delaware 87ers. It was his first game action since Jan. 31, 2016. He's missed significant time with a calf injury.

The Sixers acquired Splitter from the Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 22 in the Ersan Ilyasova trade. They could use his presence in the paint defensively with Joel Embiid out for the season, Nerlens Noel in Dallas and Jahlil Okafor missing games with knee soreness. 

Richaun Holmes has started with Okafor out, and when he comes out he's been replaced by 6-foot-9 Shawn Long. (Long has had three solid games in a row, averaging 15.3 points and 7.7 rebounds against the Thunder, Bulls and Pacers.)

Sixers head coach Brett Brown is a fan of the little things Splitter can provide.

"I think that his fitness most stood out as the negative," Brown said last week. "I think the physicality that he does and what he does well -- he is an elite screen-setter, he is an elite roller, he's an elite passer -- you see hints of that again. But the fact does remain he hasn't played in 13 months."

Experience in Serbia has Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot unfazed by NBA pressure

Experience in Serbia has Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot unfazed by NBA pressure

NEW YORK -- Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot was unfazed when he was shifted into the Sixers' starting lineup.

"It's just a regular game," he said nonchalantly earlier this month before starting against the Clippers. 

The rookie wasn't putting on a front, either. Being tasked with guarding sharpshooter J.J. Redick in only his second NBA start wasn't daunting to him. That same confidence has been exuded on the offensive end. 

After shooting an air ball against the Celtics, Luwawu-Cabarrot followed up the miss with a three. In Oklahoma City, he got knocked down driving against Steven Adams, picked himself back up and drove again undeterred. 

It's not a case of an exaggerated ego. It's just that starting in an NBA game is tame compared to the high-stress playing situations he has been in before.

Last season, Luwawu-Cabarrot experienced extreme distractions while playing for Mega Leks in the 2016 Serbian Cup. His team defeated Partizan NIS for the title in a hostile environment. 

"It was probably 10,000 people could fit in the stands, but 12 or 13,000 people were there," Luwawu-Cabarrot said. "(They were) next to the court, in the stands, next to the bench, right behind you."

Fans lit jerseys on fire in the stands. Others threw concoctions that emitted fog when they hit the court. What looked like chaos was a championship basketball game. 

"During the game, for the example, you shoot a free throw and they throw something right in front of you," Luwawu-Cabarrot said. "So you look at the floor and you see something coming right in front of you and boom! A big fog. You need to step off the court, clean the court, maybe five minutes and then you can shoot a free throw. This was maybe the extreme part but it's kind of always like that over there."

The raucous didn't stop when the buzzer sounded. Oftentimes walking off the court involved dodging angry fans of the opposing team.   

"If you have a good game and you go through the tunnel, the people are right here and they're just screaming at you," he said. "If you do something bad during a game, like you foul one guy hard, they will maybe spit on you or throw some sodas on you. I never got it but I saw it." 

Luwawu-Cabarrot, a native of France, left Europe to enter the NBA draft last summer. The Sixers selected him 24th overall. 

The 21-year-old began this season bogged down in the depth chart and spent time in the Development League to see game action. He received a bump in playing time when the Sixers waived Hollis Thompson in January. Luwawu-Cabarrot got the nod earlier this month because of injuries and has held on to that role. 

Brett Brown has often spoken of how rare it is for a player at that selection to log as many minutes as Luwawu-Cabarrot has. Even after playing sporadically to start the season, Luwawu-Cabarrot ranks 12th among fellow rookies from his draft class in total minutes.

"I think starting him has empowered him," Brett Brown said. 

Luwawu-Cabarrot's defense is ahead of his offense. He is averaging 8.8 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 25.7 minutes in 10 games as a starter. Brown's commonly used description for Luwawu-Cabarrot is a "track star," and that speed and athleticism can potentially impact both ends of the floor. Luwawu-Cabarrot ranks second in the NBA in average speed, behind only teammate Sergio Rodriguez.

"We coach the heck out of him defensively," Brown said of TLC. "The other stuff we give him a green light to make mistakes and shoot the ball. The defensive side is really where we feel like he's made improvements."

The Sixers have nine games left in the season. Luwawu-Cabarrot seemingly will get the start in the remainder of them. By then he will have a résumé of NBA experience to carry over into his second year. He will add it to the foundation of confidence he already had built overseas.

"First when you arrive (to Serbia) and you see that, you say what am I doing here?" Luwawu-Cabarrot said. "But after you just get used to it. So right now when the fans (heckle me), it's nothing."