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."

Going No. 1 still 'hasn't hit' Markelle Fultz after whirlwind draft process

Going No. 1 still 'hasn't hit' Markelle Fultz after whirlwind draft process

Let’s pretend you were drafted No. 1 in the NBA draft: how would you commemorate it?

Chances are, it’s not doing what Markelle Fultz did. 

“I got some sleep,” Fultz said. “That was my celebration. I packed my bags and got some sleep.”

The 19-year-old had been on a whirlwind during the draft process. Up until a week ago, he was projected to land in Boston. A trade between the Sixers and Celtics quickly shifted Fultz’s new home to Philadelphia. Then he had the anticipation of the actual draft in New York City with public appearances and media circuits all before his name was called Thursday night.

“I haven’t had a chance to sit down and think about what just happened about the pick,” Fultz said. 

Sixteen hours after being selected by the Sixers, Fultz was back at their training complex in Camden, New Jersey, for an introductory press conference. He had been to the facility last Saturday for a workout, but this time his trip wasn’t quite the same as a three-hour drive from his home in Maryland.

“The difference is my mindset coming in here today,” Fultz said. “I know that I’m officially a part of this organization. I’ve just got my heart and soul into it now. I’m opening up, meeting everybody. I’m very happy. I’m very excited.”

Fultz was ushered around the court from the podium to stations with multiple media outlets and groups of reporters. He answered questions about his fit with the current roster, expectations, and long-term goals for the organization. 

Fultz’s world has been moving forward at rapid speed. Meanwhile, he still has plenty to catch up on from his day-old, pre-NBA life. Fultz had kept his phone turned off during the draft. He received over 300 missed messages and calls. 

“When I turned it on, it actually froze up,” he said. “I still haven’t replied to everybody. I’m pretty sure everybody knows what’s going on right now. I’m going to take the time out one day to make sure I reply to everybody.”

Fultz planned to go back to Maryland after his day in Philadelphia. His destination once he returned home: the basketball court. At first, Fultz thought he hadn’t worked out in two days. Then he remembered he had in fact done so while in New York for the draft, but the gym rat already was itching to get the ball in his hand again. 

“I’ve got to get back in the gym and get a workout in,” Fultz said. “Then I’m trying to get up here (to Camden) as soon as I can.” 

Even though Fultz still was soaking in his new future, he already has plans once he gets settled in Philadelphia. Fultz intends to volunteer his time to the youth, students, and homeless. 

“I want to impact the community a lot,” Fultz said. “Growing up, my mom has always put me in stuff like Food and Friends where we delivered dinners. I just know I have a blessing and I want to make other people feel blessed."

There will be little downtime for Fultz. Just as soon as he digests draft night, he will be traveling out west for summer league (see story). He's in no rush, though, to move beyond the enormity of being selected No. 1.

“I’m glad that it hasn’t hit me yet,” Fultz said. “I think when I sit down and it hits me, it’s going to be a very emotional time. Right now I’m just happy.”

NBA Notes: Clippers' Blake Griffin opts out of deal to become free agent

NBA Notes: Clippers' Blake Griffin opts out of deal to become free agent

Blake Griffin has decided to test free agency, telling the Los Angeles Clippers that he is opting out of the final year of his contract.

A person with direct knowledge of Griffin's plans confirmed the decision to The Associated Press on Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity because neither the five-time All-Star nor the Clippers have publicly announced the move.

The move was expected, and gives Griffin the chance to either pursue a deal elsewhere -- or, of course, re-sign with the Clippers for more years.

The Clippers have had six consecutive successful regular seasons -- winning at least 60 percent of their games each year, something only San Antonio has done in that same span -- but never cracked the code of finding success in the playoffs. The Clippers never made it out of the second round in any of those six seasons, and lost in the first round each of the last two years.

And now with Griffin, along with LA guards Chris Paul and J.J. Redick all potentially on the move as free agents, as well as speculation that DeAndre Jordan could be a trade possibility, next season's Clippers could have a decidedly different look (see full story).

Clippers: Paul re-elected as NBPA president
NEW YORK -- Chris Paul has been re-elected president of the National Basketball Players Association.

Paul's new four-year term begins immediately. He will be assisted by the union's newly elected vice president, Garrett Temple of the Sacramento Kings.

In his first term as president, Paul most notably helped the players and the NBA come together on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that goes into effect on July 1.

Paul says he's "humbled that my fellow players have voted to have me continue."

Temple has a three-year term as vice president, which also begins immediately. He replaces Kyle Korver in that role.

The other members of the NBA's Executive Committee are First Vice President LeBron James, Secretary-Treasurer James Jones, and Vice Presidents Carmelo Anthony, Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, Pau Gasol and Anthony Tolliver.

Pistons: Caldwell-Pope suspended 2 games
NEW YORK -- Detroit Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was suspended for two games without pay by the NBA on Friday for pleading guilty to operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

Caldwell-Pope was sentenced to a year of probation last week in a March traffic stop in suburban Detroit.

Caldwell-Pope was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after police say he was spotted going about 45 mph in a 25 mph zone about 2:50 a.m. March 29 in Auburn Hills. He was arrested after a field sobriety test. A further test showed he had a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent.

Caldwell-Pope is a restricted free agent.

NBA: Camby sued over nephew’s drowning
HOUSTON -- Former NBA player Marcus Camby has been named defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit over the drowning of his 9-year-old autistic nephew in a pond on Camby's Houston-area property last Thanksgiving.

The federal lawsuit, filed Thursday by the boy's father, Marcus Kendall McGhee, alleges that Camby was aware of the limitations of his nephew, Marcus Carter McGhee, but failed to supervise the child and used no protective measures to keep him away from the pond.

The boy was found dead two days after he was reported missing. He'd traveled to Texas from his home in the Hartford, Connecticut, area for the holiday.

Camby's property includes several acres in Pearland, a Houston suburb.

Camby could not immediately be reached for comment Friday. He played 19 NBA seasons for six teams, including the Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks and Portland Trail Blazers. The 2012-13 season was his last.