The Ivy League’s newest stars faced off for the first time in early January, at Princeton’s ancient Jadwin Gymnasium. Lee and Mack didn’t acknowledge each other. New-school players, but signs of an old-school rivalry?

“I’m really competitive,” says Mack. “So, even if I know you, I won’t talk to you before the game. I haven’t really talked to Xaivian before. I respect his game, I respect who he is as a player.”

Lee got the better of the battle, scoring 33 points, grabbing 8 boards, and dishing out 7 dimes. The way he created space conjured flashbacks of another baby-faced assassin a generation ago at Davidson. Mack, just back after missing a month with mononucleosis, struggled with 8 points on 3-11 shooting, and Princeton won by 30.

This past weekend, Princeton made the trek to Cambridge and picked up another win, with Lee piling up a gaudy 27-9-6 line. But Mack-versus-Lee and Harvard-versus-Princeton are likely to be storylines beyond the confines of the Northeast for the next few years.

“There’s no question that players like Malik Mack and Xaivian Lee will be dangerous and elevating for their teams and the league as long as they stay at Harvard and Princeton,” says Bilas. “And one or both of them are going to play in the NCAA tournament without question.”

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Mack and Lee do not look, play, or move like the Ivy League players of the past. Both have NBA aspirations, and it doesn’t seem crazy to think that they both could get there. Lately, Lee has noticed more people have approached him around campus seeking autographs or pictures. Media outlets from both the United States and his native Canada have been catching on.

“Yeah, it’s definitely cool to get that recognition,” he says. “It doesn’t really change too much for me though. We’re practicing every day to get better.”

Winning the Ivy League championship and exceeding last year’s NCAA Tournament run is all that matters right now to Lee and his Tigers. The attention, of course, is nice. “Followers,” he says, “have kind of picked up.”

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