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By Jon Teitel

jonteitel@hotmail.com

January 25th, 2006

Ivy Basketball: Where Are They Now?

 

In Jon Teitel's continuing series of interviews with former Ivy League stars, he chats with Nate Walton, team leader on three Ivy championship teams and son of legend Bill Walton, and Marco McCrotty, a Columbia grad currently playing pro ball in Spain.

Nate Walton: Forward, Princeton, 1996-2001, won 3 Ivy titles, 1-time All-Ivy 1st-team.

1. What team do you currently play for, and what other professional teams have you played for since graduating? I played professionally in France for a season, and recently played some exhibition matches in Beijing and Shanghai with some of my old Princeton teammates.

2. If your playing days are already over, what are you up to these days? I just finished my MBA at Stanford University, and I am looking to do whatever interesting things come my way.

3. What was the best moment of your college career? Winning the Ivy League title with four freshmen and myself against a heavily favored Penn team in 2001 (Walton had a game-high 8 rebounds, 7 assists, and 6 steals in a 68-52 win over Penn on March 6, 2001).

4. What are the major differences between Ivy League play and other Division 1 play? The speed: most Ivy teams play a slower style, and therefore the games are lower scoring.

5. Who was the best player you ever played with? Larry Bird was a pretty good 2-on-2 partner.

6. Who was the best player you ever played against?  My younger brother Luke (who plays for the Lakers), who is the most competitive player I have been on the court with.

7. Who was the best coach you ever played for? Jim Tomey (my high school coach and a “Coaching Legend” in the San Diego Hall of Champions) and John Thompson III (who is now coaching Georgetown).

8. Who was the best coach you ever played against?  Roy Williams (coach of defending national champion North Carolina)

9. What advice do you have for current Ivy League players who want to make it to the pros? Good luck, get your degree, and try your best.

10. What advice do you have for current Ivy League players who are not sure what to do if they cannot make it to the pros?  Take advantage of the wonderful head start you have been given by getting a great education.

11. What players have been the biggest influence on you? My father (Hall-of-Famer Bill Walton), Larry Bird, and my younger brother Luke.

12. Who is your favorite past college basketball player, and why? All three of my brothers (Adam, Chris, and Luke) played Division 1 basketball, so they are all equal favorites of mine.

13. Who is your favorite current professional basketball player, and why? My little brother Luke and his friends (Kareem Rush, Brian Cook, and Richard Jefferson).

14. Who is your favorite past professional basketball player, and why? Larry Bird: he dominated the game in so many ways, and always did it without being selfish.

15. Who is going to win the Ivy basketball title this year? I am surprised every year if Princeton does not win the title. The other teams have gotten more competitive over the past decade, but I still like the orange-and-black cutting backdoor, hitting three-pointers, and playing tough defense.

Marco McCottry: Forward, Columbia, 2001-2003. 

1. What team do you currently play for, and what other professional teams have you played for since graduating?  I am currently playing in the Spanish LEB-2 division for Noyastar Rosalia. My first stop out here was for a team called Essen Schwarz-Weiss in the German Bundesliga 2.  Last year I tried out in France Pro A, but ultimately ended up in the Portuguese first division called the TMN.  There I played for Cab Madeira on the Island of Madeira. I was an all-star in this league, but got out of my contract to come to Spain to play because of the opportunity. The top league here is second to only the NBA, and the level of competition in the lower leagues is considered superior to that of many 1st divisions in other countries.

2. What do you plan on doing once your playing days are over?  When I'm done playing I'm looking to get involved in the entertainment industry, or at least that is my dream. I have a passion for music and film, and am enrolling in the New York Film Academy this summer.  During my free time here I have been studying and reading a lot of books about the world of finance as well.  With my economics degree, I am still curious about the economy, and am considering business school as an option.

3. What was the best moment of your professional career?  My last game in Spain last year. It was game five of a playoff to stay in the league. I had never experienced a playoff series before, so it was a great experience winning a game five on the road and helping keep my team from being relegated to another league.

4. What was the best moment of your college career?  My college career was not filled with bright spots, but I still remember my best moment. It was clearly defeating Penn and Princeton consecutively at home (on February 16 and 17, 2001). Although I did not play much or score a tremendous amount of points, I never felt so much a part of a team, or a team sport. It is what separates basketball from track, golf, or tennis. You count on other guys and other guys count on you: you win together and you lose together.

5. What are the major differences between the professional game and the college game?  The big difference between Ivy and pro ball is the egos. Maybe I would have experienced it more had I been in a big Division 1 school and people were playing for NBA looks, but in the Ivy not too many think they have a chance, so they play solely for the love of the game. In the pros it is hard to find guys like that. Unfortunately, money is more of a motivating factor than passion, and many are playing for bigger contracts. Everyone wants to do better the next year. Money changes the dynamics of the sport, so I would have to say it is definitely different.

6. Who was the best player you ever played against?  In workouts and summer leagues I have had the opportunity to play against many good players from the top NBA players down to the college ranks, and I cannot point out one that was the greatest. Most guys who play in the NBA all look like the greatest I have ever played against: those guys do not even miss in pickup games.

7. Who was the best coach you ever played for?  My best coach was my high school coach. He tried to prepare me for what was down the road and what team play was all about: at the time I did not understand, but with hindsight I really appreciate what he tried to do for me. My college coach taught me some things that stick with me to this day as well. He used to tell me that basketball prepares you for the real world. Man, how right he was.

8. Who was the best coach you ever played against?  I never pay attention to who is coaching on the opposite bench when I'm playing. Its funny, I vividly remember my first college game against Duke, but I don't remember even looking at Coach K the entire night. I guess I just focus on who is out there on the floor. That's my opponent: I am not worried about who is coming in or who is giving instructions to the other team.

9. What advice do you have for current Ivy League players who want to make it to the pros?  Go for it: do not let anyone tell you that you are not good enough. People have done wonders with a little bit of opportunity: just be patient and you might get that chance.

10. What players have been the biggest influence on you?  I try to pattern my game after guys like Ron Artest and Bruce Bowen.  It is easy for teams to find guys who can put the ball through the net out here, but it is difficult to find guys who can stop a player from doing that. Defense wins championships: we all have heard it before many times, because it is so true.

11. What are the best changes in your game that you have noticed from the time you played in college until now?  I think my overall skill level has improved from shooting to ball handling to defense. I also have a better understanding for the game and the value of the word “team” a lot more.

12. Who is your favorite past college basketball player, and why?  Michael Jordan, hands down.

13. Who is your favorite current pro basketball player, and why?  Lebron James: I am from Cleveland.

14. Who is going to win the Ivy basketball title this year? No problem: the Columbia Lions.

 

 

 

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