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 Injury Update: Brett Brown not expecting Jahlil Okafor to play vs. Bulls

Sixers Injury Update: Brett Brown not expecting Jahlil Okafor to play vs. Bulls

CHICAGO -- Jahlil Okafor is officially listed as "questionable" for Friday's game against the Bulls, but Brett Brown is not expecting him to suit up.

Okafor is suffering soreness after banging his right knee against Victor Oladipo in Wednesday's loss against the Thunder. He did not participate in shootaround Friday morning.

"I think if you made me guess right now, I think it's going to be doubtful that he plays," Brown said after shootaround. "We'll go through what we go through. He got whacked by Oladipo the other night and he was a bit sore yesterday. Today, we sat him and we'll judge it more tonight. But I'll be surprised if I say anything differently than that tonight."

Okafor has missed six games this season because of right knee soreness. The Sixers have a jam-packed schedule coming up with four games in six days, and it doesn't let up after that -- but that won't be a factor in whether or not Okafor plays. His long-term health is still the top priority, even if it precludes him from getting into a routine.

"Forget the physical side or what a doctor may tell you," Brown said. "Just putting a head coaching hat on, any time you can get a team or a player -- and the players would say this louder than the coach -- into a routine, a rhythm, there's a system, there's a rhythm beat to somebody's cadence, it's not erratic, it's not just a rug pulled from them from time to time where they're not playing, finding consistency from that standpoint is harder."

If he does not play, Richaun Holmes and Shawn Long will be on the receiving end of increased minutes at the five spot. Both have been proving they can fill the void in the paint as of late (see story).

"Fortunately for us, you've got Richaun showing that he can come in and get some things done," Brown said. "I'm excited in an inverted way to give Shawn Long another opportunity."

The Sixers could receive extra depth at center if Tiago Splitter is able to play this season. Splitter has been sidelined since last season and is currently on assignment with the Delaware 87ers in the D-League as part of his rehab.

Splitter has appeared in one game, scoring five points with three rebounds and two assists in 14 minutes. Brown praised Splitter's willingness to play in the Development League.

"I think that his fitness most stood out as the negative," Brown said. "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."

Sixers-Bulls 5 things: Time to match physicality of playoff-hungry team

Sixers-Bulls 5 things: Time to match physicality of playoff-hungry team

The Sixers (26-45) will hit the middle of their five-game road trip when they face the playoff-hunting Chicago Bulls (34-38) at the United Center on Friday (8 p.m./CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports app).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup.

1. Licking their wounds
That escalated quickly.

The Sixers were blitzed in their lone visit of the season to Oklahoma City on Wednesday when they suffered a 122-97 loss. Russell Westbrook notched his 35th triple-double of 2016-17 in just three quarters.

The overriding theme from the game was the Thunder were far more physical than the Sixers. OKC shot 54.5 percent from the field, scored 76 points in the paint and outrebounded the Sixers by 34.

"It's a fantastic example for our young guys on the physicality of playoff-type teams," Brett Brown said (see story). "That side of it stood out to me more than it has in a long time. You look at (Steven) Adams and you look at (Enes) Kanter and you look at Taj Gibson and you look at the discrepancy on the boards, the rebounding differential, and it felt that. It's just a reminder, if you want to play late in April and May, maybe June one day, that's the physicality the playoffs bring."

2. Bully Bulls
The Bulls are hoping to still be playing during that timeframe Brown laid out. They are currently one game behind the Miami Heat for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Chicago is in that position mainly thanks to its own physicality, particularly in the rebounding department. The Bulls are third in the NBA in rebounding behind Oklahoma City and Denver with 45.9 boards per game. They are No. 1 in offensive rebounding with 12.3 a night, which is also a big reason the Bulls lead the league in second-chance points with 15.4 a game.

The Bulls don't have a specific player that carries the load on the glass. Seven different guys average at least four rebounds for the team.

Moral of the story: The Bulls will fight you down low. Literally.

Starting center Robin Lopez will return to the lineup against the Sixers after serving a one-game suspension for his run-in with Toronto Raptors big man Serge Ibaka.

3. Butler is a baller
Jimmy Butler is one of those eight players who averages at least four boards for the Bulls. He also happens to do a bit more for Chicago.

Butler continues to be an all-around threat. He is averaging 23.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game this season.

The three-time All-Star has been just as sharp against the Sixers this season, averaging 27.0 points, 6.0 boards and 5.0 assists in the two previous matchups.

The Sixers will need a big effort from rugged defender Robert Covington and anyone else who guards Butler to contain him.

4. Injuries
Tiago Splitter (calf), Joel Embiid (knee), Ben Simmons (foot) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Cristiano Felicio (back) is a game-time decision. Dwyane Wade (elbow) is out for the season for the Bulls.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost 12 straight to the Bulls.

• The Sixers have committed 32 turnovers in two games against the Bulls.

• Ex-Sixers point guard Michael Carter-Williams has averaged 18.3 points, 7.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds in three games against his former team.

• Jahlil Okafor has recorded 16.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in four games against his hometown Bulls. He's questionable to play tonight after banging knees with Victor Oladipo in OKC, but Brown doesn't expect him to play (see story).