NEW YORK – Columbia men’s basketball head coach Jim Engles has added four incoming student-athletes, three first-years, and one transfer, to comprise his second recruiting class. The Lions will welcome in guards Maka Ellis and Ben Milstein, forward Ike Nweke and center Joseph Smoyer, who will come to the Lions via the University of Portland.
“We’re very happy to have these four guys joining us,” said Engles. “They all bring different things to the table and will inject even more energy into our program. Each of them
Ellis hails from Las Vegas, where he completed a standout career at Sierra Vista High School. The two-time all-state honoree is the program’s leading scorer with 2,004 career points and ranks No. 7 all-time in the state of Nevada. Standing at 6-5, Ellis achieved All-Southwest accolades all four years and was Co-MVP in 2016-17. He averaged 24.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and two steals in his final season with the Mountain Lions all while recovering from a pair of injuries – a car accident prior to his senior year and suffered a leg injury colliding with another player during the Tarkanian Classic. As a junior, Ellis posted 25.0 points and 8.7 rebounds and dropped 52 points in a game against Desert Oasis.
“Maka’s a pretty gifted scorer, but can do a lot of other things on the floor that can help us,” Engles said. “He can step out with his range and really has a knack for getting to the free throw line. Maka can play both on and off the ball, and with his size, should be able to contribute a little bit on the boards as well.”
Milstein becomes the third member of his family to join the Columbia Athletics Program, joining his sister Adi ’18CC, who played women’s tennis and brother Oren, a junior placekicker on the football team. The youngest Milstein helped the Saint Andrews School in Boca Raton, Florida, to a 68-13 record during his three years as a starter. He helped Saint Andrews take the Class 5A District titles in 2016 and 2017. As a senior, he averaged 10.6 points, 6.3 assists
“Ben comes from a winning program at Saint Andrews, which is always a plus when you add a player with that type of pedigree,” noted Engles. “He’s a smart player and is a great distributor of the basketball. We hope he can duplicate the success his sister and brother have had here at Columbia.”
Nweke is a 6-7 forward who attended Georgetown Prep in North Bethesda, Maryland, where he helped the Hoyas claim their first state championship in 20 years in 2017-18. Nweke was named first team All-Interstate Athletic Conference and All-County as a junior and senior and was named the County’s Defensive Player of the Year. In 2017-18, he posted averages of 11 points and nine rebounds per game.
“Ike gives us a more athleticism and toughness inside,” commented Engles. “He’s kind of an old-school player that likes to protect the rim and rebound, but we think he’s got the tools to be a good offensive player. Already, he can get up and down the floor and gives us a great option in transition.”
Smoyer has spent the last two seasons at the University of Portland and will sit out the 2018-19 campaign due to NCAA transfer rules. During his career with the Pilots, he played in 40 games, making one start, and shot 57.1 percent from the floor. A native of Portland, Oregon, the 6-11 center was a two-time All-Portland Interscholastic League first-team honoree at Franklin High School and honorable mention All-State as a senior.
“Joseph has the tools to be an effective big man in the Ivy League,” said Engles. “This year will be important to work with him, hone his skills and get him comfortable with our system so he’s ready to contribute for the 2019-20 season.”
Your first chance at seeing Columbia men’s basketball’s newcomers is to purchase 2018-19 True Blue ticket packages, which are on sale now. Designed for our most loyal fans, the package includes a season ticket to Columbia football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball at a discounted rate. The True Blue package is your gateway to all of the great football and basketball action plus our interactive in-game fan experiences and enhanced game day atmosphere. Click here or call 888-LIONS-11 to purchase your 2018 season tickets or True Blue package today!