Sagehen basketball phenom Micah Elan PZ ’20 reflects on record-breaking career and plans for future

A male basketball player hugs a coach wearing a suit in the center of the image. Behind them are other smiling basketball players and a crowd paying rapt attention to the game.
Micah Elan PZ ’20 celebrates his last game in Rains by hugging head coach Charles Katsiaficas during the Sagehens’ 87-66 win over Redlands in the SCIAC men’s basketball championships Feb. 29. (Amy Best • The Student Life)

Micah Elan PZ ’20 has always had his head in the game, though his original goal wasn’t to play basketball in Claremont.

But now, the Pomona-Pitzer basketball phenom leaves Claremont leading the program in career points, assists and three-pointers. Elan also led the program to its greatest season ever, as the team had reached the NCAA Sweet Sixteen before the season came to an abrupt halt due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Though Elan became a 5C phenom during his time with the Sagehens, a historic career had always seemed a long time coming. Elan spent three years playing for Lick-Wilmerding High School and one year playing for Prolific Prep, a basketball academy in Napa, California, and home to potential NBA lottery pick and top recruit in the senior class Jalen Green.

Elan always envisioned playing basketball at the Division I level, but a change in plans never dampened his game.

“Pretty much all the way up until the beginning of my senior year of high school, I was planning on playing Division I, but all the schools I was talking to were telling me I was on the backburner for their recruiting list,” Elan said. “It seemed like there was a really great opportunity for me to come in and play all four years [at Pomona-Pitzer].”

Elan was right — he started 26 games as a first-year, averaging 12.6 points in 33 minutes per game, allowing him to gain significant experience early in his college career.

“In terms of developing as a player and as a leader on the basketball team, and gaining experience in game situations and late-game situations, I got rushed into that experience as a freshman,” he said. “It helped a lot as I got older, and you can see it in my junior and senior year. … It just felt so much easier and so much more comfortable developing that from the beginning.”

When asked if he looked up to any professional basketball players, Elan gave a single, resounding answer: Daniel Rosenbaum PO ’19, who currently plays professionally for Hapoel Jerusalem Basketball Club in the Israeli Premier League. 

Playing with Rosenbaum, who earned All-SCIAC honors during his time with the Hens, helped Elan develop even further as a player, as the two played together for three consecutive years.

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In addition to Rosenbaum, head coach Charles Katsiaficas also had a huge role in helping Elan develop into the player he is today.

“From day one, I could tell that Coach Kat believed in me, but wasn’t going to be easy on me, and that’s something you need as a freshman,” Elan said. “We have meetings all the time, just talking about how things are going in my life and as far as the basketball season’s going.”

While Elan began to pile on the individual stats in his first year on campus, his focus was always on the team. When asked what his records mean to him, Elan highlighted the team’s success over his own. 

“I think what means the most is that we won back-to-back SCIAC Championships and made it the farthest we’ve ever made it in the tournament,” he said. “I think that says a lot more than the personal records that I have.”

Even as Elan deflected the praise regarding his accolades, teammate Adam Rees PO ’20 had no shortage of compliments for his fellow senior. 

“A lot of different players can be a little bit one-dimensional, even good players. They’re really good at taking the ball to the basket or they’re a really good three-point shooter. But Micah can kind of do all of those different things,” Rees said. “He’s not just a great shooter, he can take the ball to the basket really well, has great finishing ability, hits his free throws. … He’s a very complete player.”

Rees also mentioned Elan’s impact off the court.

“He’s a great friend, he’s a great person. … Everybody loves him as a teammate,” he said. “He gets his teammates involved.”

As Elan graduates this spring, he hopes to take his talents overseas and play at the professional level.

“Once I sign with an agent, I’m looking to play in either England or Israel because I’m a British citizen, and I’m about to be an Israeli citizen, which helps a lot,” Elan said. “Sometime, hopefully next year when basketball returns, I’ll either be in England or Israel playing basketball again.”

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