The nation found out about C.J. McCollum on March 6, 2012. The Lehigh guard racked up 30 points to lead the 15th-seeded Mountain Hawks to a 75-50 shocker over No. 2 seed Duke in the NCAA Tournament 2nd round.
It not only constituted just the 6th time a No. 15 knocked off a No. 2, it set up the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder for NBA Draft glory. In April 2013, the Portland Trail Blazers selected him with the No. 10 overall pick in the draft, making him just the 3rd Patriot League player picked in the 1st round in the last 32 years.
His other highlight at Lehigh? He met Elise Esposito, whom he got engaged to this past February. The couple have dated continuously for the last 6 years. Here’s what you need to know about her.
1. She Graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2013 from Lehigh with a B.A. in Behavioral Neuroscience
While the couple was vibing with each other at Lehigh, Esposito was earning her degree in Behavioral Neuroscience with a minor in Psychology. Her LinkedIn profile states that she earned Magna Cum Laude.
She also listed in her actives: Executive Board and Founder of Peer Health Advisors, President of Healthy Hawks and the sorority Gamma Phi Beta.
When McCollum’s jersey was retired this past March in Lehigh’s home finale, the student newspaper The Brown and White described Esposito, a Bethlehem (Pa.) native’s, and her appreciation for her fiance’s honor.
“All of the love he received, it was really cool,” Esposito said. “It’s crazy, I think we always knew he was going to accomplish a lot. It is just amazing to see how much he has accomplished. I am very proud of him.”
2. She Continued Her Education with a Master’s at Lehigh & is Currently Studying at Columbia to be a Dentist
Esposito’s LinkedIn profile also shows that she earned a Master’s in Engineering in 2015 from Lehigh. She also spent 3 years after undergraduate graduation as a research student under Dr. Michael Burger.
Engineering was not always her goal after her original degree. She was profiled by the Lehigh Valley Live about her intentions after school.
She has spent this past semester applying to medical schools. She has sent in her primary applications and has received her secondaries from the schools to which she has applied. According to Esposito, secondaries are distributed once GPA and MCAT scores are verified. If a student is well-received by a medical school, they will be invited for an interview.
For Esposito, the thought of graduation doesn’t seem so daunting. She is excited for future opportunities, and plans to enjoy her time left at Lehigh.
After her Master’s, she enrolled at the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine as a Doctor of Dental Surgery candidate. She plans to earn her doctorate in 2020.
This means that while McCollum lives and trains in Portland, she lives in New York City. Her Instagram page shows several pictures of her and her parents with her overlooking the city.
3. She Worked as a Dental Assistant for her Father Michael Esposito, an Award-Winning Dentist
She worked as a dental assistant for her father Dr. Michael Esposito from 2005 to 2016, spanning her early high school days at Bethlehem High School to just before she entered the Columbia dental program.
The elder Esposito is an award-winning dentist, according to his website Stunning Teeth.
In 2000 Dr. Esposito was awarded a Fellowship in the Pierre Fauchard Academy. This prestigious award is held by less than 3% of U.S. dentists and by their charter grants fellowships to those candidates who have made “outstanding contributions to the art and science of dentistry or to society.”
His offices are located in Stroudsburg (Pa.) and he is married to his wife, and Elise’s mother, Kathy.
4. McCollum & Esposito Announced Their Engagement This Past September on Social Media
According to Jaime Hudson of NBC Sports, McCollum announced his engagement to longtime girlfriend Elise Esposito via Twitter in Sep. 2018. The pair can be seen smiling on a boat sailing around New York City. This is made obvious by the Statue of Liberty in the background.
As several outlets pointed out, it was the 3rd proposal of the year by a Blazers player. Forward Jake Layman got engaged to a woman named Jazzy, while guard Nik Stauskas successfully proposed to a woman named Alexandra Brynn.
5. Elise is Frequently Seen at Portland Games & Events Despite Residing in NYC
Despite the cross-country distance due to McCollum’s job and Esposito’s education, the pair find time to see each other. Her most recent Instagram post shows her in in the Portland locker room alongside McCollum and her parents, who are donned in Blazers jerseys.
They have also been spotted on vacation in the Bahamas and Cabo San Lucas.
After she graduates, it’s unclear if she’s moving out to Portland. One thing that McCollum made abundantly clear last year is that he’s not interested in leaving Portland to be a part of a super team elsewhere. When discussing the Golden State Warriors, he said he’s not built to jump ship just to play for a title contender immediately.
In an interview on CCTV on Wednesday, CJ McCollum once again stated his distaste for the Dubs’ super team, calling them “disgusting.” McCollum refuted the interviewers’ hypothesis that free agents would continue to flock to the Golden State in the offseason.
“I think some players will take that route, but most guys have too much pride, want to really win on their own or in their certain organizations, and aren’t going to just jump the bandwagon.”
As for McCollum’s chances of joining a superteam, don’t hold your breath.
“I’m not built like those guys, I was raised differently.”
McCollum won’t be a free agent until 2021. Whether or not he decides to head out to a place like New York or Brooklyn to be closer to Elise is yet to be seen.
Either way, the couple have made it work for the better part of a decade and are set to be married soon.