The nerves were obvious and, at times, painful to watch for Tyler Bey.
Arguably the most physically gifted of the talented freshman class of the Colorado men's basketball team, there were more than a few moments during the early stages of the season when Bey's athleticism couldn't overcome the clutter of information speeding through his harried mind.
While Bey's eye-catching leaping ability has been on display pretty much from the first minute of his Buffaloes career, Bey found himself moving on the floor in tandem with his chaotic thoughts, often leading to reckless mistakes.
It's safe to say Bey has finally settled in.
One of the few bright spots in CU's home loss on Saturday against Washington, Bey has soundly overcome that scattershot start to his career to showcase the rebounding skills that at one point had CU head coach Tad Boyle comparing Bey's skills to those of former CU star and Oklahoma City forward Andre Roberson, who owns the top two single-season rebounding totals in CU history.
"I was thinking a lot my first few games. I was thinking too hard because I didn't want to mess up," Bey said. "Coach just told me to slow down and take my time with things and it will come. Eventually it did. I'm still working on it every game."
Coming off the first double-double of his career — Bey matched a season-high with 14 points and grabbed a season-best 11 rebounds against Washington — Bey clearly is exuding a confidence that was lacking earlier this season. Certainly it is nothing unusual or alarming for a freshman to experience jitters out of the gate. Yet being inserted into such a prominent role from day one made Bey's growing pains a little more visible.
After attempting five shots in each of his first two games, Bey didn't attempt more than three in any of the next eight despite averaging 14.2 minutes during that span. Through his first 10 games Bey went 9-for-24 (.375) from the field. In the past 10 games Bey has gone 29-for-50 (.580).
His rebounding numbers have risen in almost the exact same proportion. In the season's first nine games Bey averaged just 2.8 rebounds despite Boyle's lofty preseason comparisons. Beginning with a nine-rebound effort on Dec. 12 against San Diego, however, Bey has displayed the skills that drew that comparison in the first place, averaging 6.5 rebounds over the past 11 games. He also has made strides defensively and has recorded seven of his 11 blocked shots this season over the past four games.
"I think it's experience. Just time and getting used to the speed of the game and not letting the defense speed you up offensively," Boyle said of Bey's recent emergence. "There's no substitute for experience. When he slows down, he's pretty darn good."
Offensively, Bey still is only scratching the surface of his ability. After going 12-for-13 at the free throw line through the season's first seven games, Bey will take a .686 season percentage into CU's game at No. 11 Arizona on Thursday. And while some coaches no longer hold much value for mid-range jumpers, Boyle is not in that camp and is encouraging Bey to shoot fearlessly when defenses sag off him, as was the case when Bey knocked down a couple jumpers during CU's win at UCLA on Jan. 13.
"Obviously you'd rather have a three, you'd rather have a layup, but in college basketball with zone defenses and help-side...we don't have the illegal defense like the NBA does," Boyle said. "There are times when that mid-range has got to be there. That's the one (Bey) is very comfortable with. I want him to shoot it when he's open."