by ED KENSIK
For Montclair Local
Most people who know Montclair Kimberley’s Brennan Columbia-Walsh know his tenacity on the court.
The 6-foot-4 forward/center, who was just named to the named to the All Super Essex Conference First team, played a big part in this past season for the Cougars, a role that is expected to be even bigger in the 2021-22 season.
Columbia-Walsh averaged a double-double this past season as MKA finished with a 6-9 record with a predominantly young, inexperienced squad.
“He is very competitive and usually plays someone who is bigger and stronger and tends to win those battles,” said MKA head coach Tony Jones about his team’s captain.
That’s also the word from his AAU coach, Mark Scott of the Hilltopper Basketball Club, where he will be playing this off-season.
“Brennan is a fierce competitor on the court,” Scott said. “He possesses one of the highest basketball IQs for a player that I have ever been around. He is a versatile player in that he can post up, face the basket and is a double-double machine. We are looking forward to an outstanding AAU season with Brennan leading our 17U team.”
Columbia-Walsh’s twin sister, Patricia, said: “Brennan and I are very competitive and always pushing each other to improve. That usually takes form in playing 1-v-1 or doing workouts together.” Patricia Columbia-Walsh, who plays on the MKA girls hoops team and also on the girls lacrosse squad, has accepted a lacrosse scholarship to University of Pennsylvania.
Her brother said that he too likes the competition with his sister. “Patricia and I are extremely competitive, so we’re always pushing each other to be better,” he said.
It helped to have each other in the midst of this pandemic season. “During the pandemic we faced a lot of obstacles, but having each other to stay motivated has been extremely beneficial,” Patricia Columbia-Walsh said.
Columbia-Walsh, MKA’s offensive player of the year, averaged 17 points, 11.5 rebounds and a block, assist and steal in the 15 games that the Cougars played in the abbreviated 2021 season.
The junior attributes his play to hard work in the off-season. “This past summer, I was up at 6:30 a.m. multiple mornings per week to train,” he said. “In the weeks and months leading up to the season, I was able to spend hours training each day to expand my game and play the whole floor. I also did a lot of weight training to build on my athleticism.”
The MKA captain was dismayed with his team’s under-.500 mark, but he saw plenty of growth during the abbreviated season and looks ahead to 2021-22.
“Although we were hoping for a better record, I was very happy with how the team played,” he said. “I’m particularly happy with the growth we showed throughout the season. I also really valued working as a captain and developing my leadership skills with the team while creating a winning environment. I’m looking forward to continuing to develop as a team and seeing that translate to wins next year.”
For his play on the court, Columbia-Walsh emulates NBA two-time MVP Tim Duncan, formerly of the San Antonio Spurs, who is considered one of the greatest power forwards in NBA history.
“He’s a legend who was really loyal to his team, and I like his style of play,” he said about Duncan, who played only for the Spurs, for 19 years. “He’s Mr. Fundamental for a reason, and is such a force in the post and from the outside.”
For Jones, Columbia-Walsh’s hard work in the off-season showed up in his improvement this past winter. “He worked on being more consistent with his shooting,” the MKA head coach said. “He improved his range and his footwork, and also got stronger.”
He put his abilities to use at their height in a pair of games, the 70-55 victory over West Essex Tech on Jan. 28 and the 60-57 loss to Shabazz on Feb. 27.
“The West Caldwell Tech game set the standard for the season,” Jones said about Columbia-Walsh’s 24 points and 17 rebounds. “Brennan was very active and aggressive.”
Unfortunately for MKA, he fouled out late in the game against Shabazz, with the Cougars leading before falling. He had 22 points and 14 rebounds in the contest.
“He dominated them (Shabazz),” Jones said. “We were up by five at the time. We lost by two to the eventual division champions. I think we had a good chance to win if he were on the floor.”
With the season now in the rear-view mirror, Columbia-Walsh knows what he has to do to be ready for his senior year at MKA.
“My biggest goal in the coming off-season will be continuing to expand my game,” Columbia-Walsh, who has his eye on playing in college, said. “I will continue to work on my midrange and three-point shot as well as my handle so that I will be a threat from multiple positions both next season and at the college level.”