SAN FRANCISCO — Rare is the occasion a player that has yet to play a minute of college basketball is asked to represent his team in a setting with as many bright lights and television cameras as the Pac-12 Conference media day.

Yet when that player is Colorado's Evan Battey, you let the man have his fun.

So there was Battey, alongside teammate McKinley Wright, getting in a round of Guitar Hero and a few shots on a makeshift putting green on Thursday at the league headquarters while adding his two cents on a Buffaloes team that was picked to finish seventh in the preseason Pac-12 media poll.

Regardless of how the 2018-19 season plays out for a Colorado team that is planning to exceed those tepid outside expectations, Thursday's brief working vacation was a meaningful reward for Battey after enduring two-plus years of unexpected adversity.

"It feels good. This is a totally new experience," Battey said. "I feel a certain level of pride being here with coach Boyle and McKinley, representing my school, my teammates, my coaching staff."

Battey's trials have been well-documented, yet it remains stunning just how many hurdles the 6-foot-8 forward has had to clear in order to finally get to the cusp of taking the floor for CU.


Advertisement

Battey was declared ineligible for his senior year in high school because he repeated the ninth grade years earlier at a time in his life when his parents were splitting up. Once he arrived at CU, Battey was sidelined by a sprained ankle just before the team's exhibition trip to Italy in August 2017.

As it turns out, though, Battey wouldn't have been able to play in Italy anyway. The NCAA came to the same conclusion about Battey repeating the ninth grade and declared him academically ineligible for the 2017-18 season, despite an otherwise solid scholastic resume. Battey's redshirt season took a far more frightening turn in December, when a stroke sent him to the hospital and put more than just his basketball career in jeopardy.

Battey is back on the floor as a 20-year old freshman and ready to make the big contributions head coach Tad Boyle was hoping to get out of him a year ago. As CU's leader perused his options as to who would join Wright in San Francisco to represent his program, the affable Battey became maybe not the obvious choice, but the correct one.

"I've got such respect for how he's handled himself and the attitude that he's had through all this adversity, given his health issues and the academic penalties that he basically had to endure," Boyle said. "And quite frankly, one of the things we want to encourage our players to do and that we haven't been very good at in the past is talking, communicating, on and off the floor. Evan Battey is one of our best communicators. I wanted to reward that. I wanted our other players to see that when you talk, good things happen.

"And Evan is just a great representative of our program. He's mature, plus he's a good student. There were a lot of things that went into it."

While Battey certainly checked all the boxes for the sort of person that makes for a good team representative — engaging, thoughtful, witty — yet his appearance Thursday also is a signal of the high expectations Boyle has for Battey on the floor this season. Despite the serious medical scare and the two consecutive seasons on the sideline, Battey has an opportunity to be one of the more unique players to ever hit the CU Events Center floor.

"It's very huge for us. Evan is going to bring a different type of playing style to our team," Wright said. "Honestly, he can play one through five. In pickup sometimes he plays the one. And he guards one through five. I've never seen somebody his size be able to guard one through five. He's going to bring a whole different feel to our team. I'm excited for the country to see what he's capable of."

Pat Rooney: rooneyp@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/prooney07