Evan Battey was keeping a little secret the last time he traveled through Italy.
It was August 2017, and Battey had only been on campus a few weeks while going through his initial workouts with the Colorado men's basketball team. On the eve of an exhibition tour through Italy, Battey sprained an ankle, keeping him on the sideline for his first action with the Buffs.
Or so it seemed.
At that point, Battey already had learned the NCAA was declaring him academically ineligible for the 2017-18 season, a ruling that stemmed from Battey repeating the ninth grade early in his high school career. The Buffs were appealing the decision, but until then Battey remained prohibited from competing with CU. The sprained ankle was, in one sense, conveniently timed, as it spared Battey and head coach Tad Boyle the need to explain Battey's absence from the floor for two more months.
Early last month, Battey was fortunate to receive a return trip to Italy, competing with USA East Coast during a similar excursion of exhibition games. For Battey, a summer spent getting up-and-down the floor was a big step along his comeback trail after sitting out the past two seasons and experiencing a stroke last winter.
"The guys we played were a lot stronger and older, more experienced in basketball," Battey said. "It was a nice opportunity for us to match our talent and athleticism versus their experience. I played in the Drew League (in Los Angeles) before that too, and that was really me getting the rust off. I got the feel for game-like situations in the Drew League, and then overseas in Italy I got the feeling of team goals. Not like individual stats, it was more team-oriented. We were playing for a purpose."
Battey also was forced to sit out his senior year of high school due to the same issue from ninth grade, meaning the 6-foot-8 forward will be more than two years removed from his most recent competitive basketball game when the Buffs open the season at home on Nov. 13 against Drake. More challenging than the layoff, however, has been Battey's recovery from the stroke he suffered at his southern California hometown in late December.
Not only did Battey get to experience some much-needed game action in Italy, but the training camp at Columbia University in New York followed by the trip to Italy allowed him to put into practice his speech skills, now much improved since the stroke, in a setting outside his CU social bubble.
While at the training camp at Columbia Battey also had an opportunity to be instructed by coaching legend Larry Brown, though Brown did not make the trip to Europe.
"It was kind of like my goals here — trying to work every day to get to winning," said Battey, who begins official preseason practices alongside his CU teammates on Oct. 2. "We saw a lot of the same places (in Italy) that I saw last year. I would definitely go next year.
"I'm feeling good now and I think our team competitiveness is much higher than last year and previous years. We've got so many competitive dudes, it's kind of hard to be passive."