Last week, Alex Strating was able to experience something that is unlikely to happen again throughout the duration of the 2017-18 season.
And while he is just starting the first of his four years of eligibility with the Colorado Buffaloes, it isn't out of the question that it may not happen again before Strating someday suits up for the Buffs for the final time.
Amid the glut of new faces dotting CU's active roster are four true freshmen, Missouri transfer Namon Wright, and 7-footer Dallas Walton, a redshirt freshman who expects to make an impact after spending last year on the sideline.
Walton spent that season on the sideline alongside Strating, another redshirt freshman whose name typically isn't included in any discussion regarding the Buffs' potential rotation this season. However, with Tad Boyle attempting to light a fire under the cast of players apparently vying for the fifth spot in the starting lineup, CU's head coach rewarded the hard-working, fundamentally-sound Strating with a start in the Buffs' exhibition game against Colorado Mines.
"Alex Strating is all about the team," Boyle said. "He does a lot of good things. He made a play early in the second half the other night against Mines where he saves the ball out of bounds and gets us an extra possession. He's smart. Plays hard. He's not our most talented player, but he's certainly a guy, as a coach, I love what he brings every single day. Because maybe he's not as big or as tall or as athletic as some of his teammates, he has to work hard. He has to be smart in order to compete. And that's what he does.
"If our other players that are bigger and taller and longer and more athletic can learn from him, it's going to help them. There's an appreciation that I have for young men like that."
Strating was a late addition to the 2016 recruiting class and agreed to an unorthodox situation in order to join the Buffs, paying his own way at CU during his redshirt season before going on scholarship this year.
The son of a foreign diplomat, Strating was born in Ecuador and at different times during his childhood he called China, Australia, Spain, and The Netherlands home. He spent his high school years at the American School of The Hague in The Netherlands and, like Walton, spent his redshirt season last year focused on getting stronger in the weight room.
This preseason, the 6-foot-7 forward has noted the difference.
"There's a really big difference. I feel so much more comfortable out there," Strating said. "Last year I think I was a little bit tentative at times. Now that's gone away. I think a big part of it was the redshirt workouts I had with coach (Mike) Rohn and coach (Bill) Grier. I just try to do my best when I'm out there. I'm not a guy that's always looking at minutes or looking at stats. I just try to do the things the team needs me to do."
Given that Walton, Wright, the four true freshmen, two sophomores, and three seniors are ahead of Strating on the pecking order for playing time, his number may not be called often this season. Yet if injuries hit, or if some wild game scenario leaves the Buffs in a manpower crunch, Boyle said he has the utmost confidence in Strating coming through if called upon.
"That's part of being a member of a Division I basketball team," Boyle said. "It doesn't matter where you are in the rotation or what your role is, you have to be ready when your number is called. That's true for Alex. You don't know what is in store down the road for this team. Hopefully we do stay healthy. Hopefully we do make improvements. But if we don't, it's nice to have a guy like Alex Strating who you know you can count on."