Most young men in Evan Battey's position this past year would have packed their hoops gear and headed to a prep academy. Or, at the very least, rail against the bureaucracy that delivered the emotionally-crushing verdict sent him to the sideline for his senior season of high school ball.
Yet regardless how his Colorado career unfolds, Buffaloes fans will soon learn Battey is not like most young men.
Last week, Battey finally arrived in Boulder to take his place alongside most of the members of coach Tad Boyle's impressive 2017 recruiting class, with the group going through their first official practice as CU players on Sunday night. A unique player — the hulking Battey is listed as 6-foot-8, 275 pounds — begins his collegiate in a unique position, having not played competitively last year after being ruled ineligible at Villa Park (Calif.) High School.
"It was a humbling experience, learning all the ins and outs and picking up my basketball IQ," Battey said. "I learned how to watch the game from the coach's perspective. So when coaches tell me things or show certain things, I understand. You see the game from a different view."
Battey's eligibility snafu stemmed from having to repeat ninth grade. Though he didn't play basketball that first freshman year, California officials ruled he had exhausted two of the eight semesters in which high school players are eligible to play any sport. That meant Battey exhausted his eighth and final semester during his junior season, which also was his first year at Villa Park.
By the time the ruling was handed down Battey had a sense the verdict was coming and already had decided on a course of action. Instead of transferring to a prep school, which likely would have offered a more competitive basketball situation yet would nonetheless have been Battey's third school in as many years, Battey opted to remain alongside his friends and teammates at Villa Park.
Battey spent the season as a sort of player-coach, working with the team's other big men and handling a large part of the coaching duties for the school's junior varsity team. While Colorado coach Tad Boyle understands a level of rust will have to be shorn away from Battey's game this summer, he lauded the manner in which Battey carried himself and remains thoroughly encouraged about bringing a high-character player into the CU program.
"We would've rather had him play than not play obviously, but I think it shows so much character," Boyle said. "Ninety-eight guys out of 100 in his situation would have left his high school and gone to a prep school and play. He stayed. He cared about his teammates. He cared about his school. He helped out on the bench. That's the kind of kid he is.
"He's a unique individual who cares about people, cares about his teammates. And that's what's going to make him such a valuable part of our program going forward."
When asked what he focused upon during his basketball hiatus, Battey quickly said he wanted to make sure his academics were in order with college around the corner, proudly reporting he produced semester GPAs of 3.2 and 3.0 during his senior year. Now the focus is to get caught up with new CU classmates McKinley Wright, Tyler Bey, and D'Shawn Schwartz, all of whom have been on campus at least four weeks, ahead of the Buffs' four-game trip through Italy in August.
"That altitude is still hitting me a little bit just getting up-and-down," Battey said. "It just feels so good to be here and finally be out here bonding. I didn't shoot the ball as well (Sunday) as I wanted to, but that has more to do with the speed of the game when you get to college."