The road to the Ivy championship for the Yale men’s basketball team took a drastic turn when Columbia announced yesterday that its first team all-Ivy selection from a year ago, Alex Rosenberg, will be withdrawing for the current school year.
Rosenberg suffered a Jones fracture in his right foot in practice on Oct. 24. The decision to sit out the year will mean that Rosenberg, pending conference approval, will be able to return for a full, hopefully healthy year in 2015–16 rather than sacrifice half the season this year as was expected. The injury typically requires six to eight weeks of recovery time.
While many athletic conferences allow student-athletes to complete four years of eligibility within five years, the Ivy League only allots four years of school for a player’s four years of eligibility. Other notable players in recent history who have withdrawn from school rather than lose a year of eligibility include Harvard basketball stars Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey, who each left after being implicated in an academic fraud scandal in the fall of 2012.
Statistically speaking, Rosenberg was a force for the Lions, averaging 16 points per game over the course of the entire season. More significant was his play during conference competition, during which the forward from New Jersey upped his average to 19.5 points per game, tied for the Ivy League lead with Yale forward Justin Sears ’16.
Elis interviewed were quick to point out that injuries are never celebrated, especially considering that they have seen the consequences. A wrist injury left Sears unable to play in Yale’s CollegeInsider.com Tournament championship game last season, which forced the forward — who is one of the preseason favorites to win Ivy League Player of the Year — into months of rehab.
“It’s definitely a blow [for them], and I hate for that to happen to them,” point guard Javier Duren ’15 said. “Columbia’s still good … they still have some really, really good pieces, so I hope nobody is counting them out.”
In the teams’ three matchups last year, Rosenberg made his presence felt, averaging 18.0 points per game to go along with 4.3 rebounds per game. In fact, his game-high 18 points in the second meeting not only inched Columbia closer to the top of the standings but also dealt a critical blow to Yale’s championship hopes.
Nevertheless, the Bulldogs will not miss game-planning for the 6’7” weapon prior to their two scheduled meetings with the Lions this season.
“I’m not going to miss him because that’s going to make our year a little bit easier,” Sears said. “He was definitely a nightmare matchup. I got to play some pickup with him and [forward Armani Cotton ’15] this summer, and it’s a tough blow for him because he was playing very well.”
Rosenberg also presents matchup problems for opposing teams because of his unconventional style of play. As a stretch power forward who often plays on the perimeter — he finished third in the conference in three-point field goal percentage — Rosenberg’s shooting prowess opens the floor up for the Lions and forces opposing power forwards to leave their comfort zone in the paint.
Yale forward Matt Townsend ’15 will be one beneficiary of Rosenberg’s absence, as Townsend is most well-suited for defending traditional back-to-the-basket type big men.
“Rosenberg might not have been the most popular guy in the Ivy League, but he was very effective at doing what he did well: driving, stretching the floor and above all, drawing fouls,” Townsend said. “Columbia will definitely have a different look at the four this year and that matchup might be a little easier for our personnel.”
The contentious history between Rosenberg and the Bulldogs dates back three season to Feb. 24, 2012. In that game, Yale was fighting for an Ivy League championship behind the play of a pair of senior stalwarts, center Greg Mangano ’12 and guard Reggie Willhite ’12, while Columbia was sputtering and attempting to remain out of the Ivy League basement.
Late in the second half, an open lane appeared for forward Brandon Sherrod ’16 who drove hard to the basket. Rosenberg met Sherrod at the hoop and delivered a flagrant foul that swung the game and has yet to be forgotten by Sherrod’s teammates.
With the Columbia star taking a year off, and with Sherrod also postponing his senior year to sing with the Whiffenpoofs, the final matchups between the two game-changing players will be delayed by a season.
Rosenberg’s departure complicates the plans of Columbia head coach Kyle Smith, who will now have the task of manipulating his roster to account for the sudden absence of returning production. The Lions were picked to finish third in the preseason Ivy media poll, but such a finish is in question after Rosenberg’s injury.
On the other hand, Rosenberg’s departure does not change Yale’s focus moving forward.
“We haven’t really talked much about [Rosenberg’s injury] as a team,” Duren said. “It’s something we all know but right now, we’re just focusing on who we are going to be this season and our identity.”
The Bulldogs will not play the Lions until Jan. 20.