Tyler Bey had barely set foot on the University of Colorado campus before men's basketball coach Tad Boyle began comparing the potential of the wiry rookie with the stunning leaping ability to Andre Roberson.
Roberson, of course, was one of the stars of the Buffaloes' run to the first two of three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances in 2012 and 2013, and he left CU as one of the leading rebounders in program history. At times during Bey's freshman season of 2017-18, while he endured the ups-and-downs typical of a rookie, Boyle slightly backtracked on those comparisons.
But of late Bey has showcased exactly why his head coach made those comparisons in the first place, and on Tuesday Bey had an opportunity to meet the man whose rebounding totals he is chasing.
Roberson, in town as the Oklahoma City Thunder visited the Denver Nuggets Tuesday night, returned to the CU Events Center Tuesday afternoon to watch his old team practice. Bey and his teammates had previously met during one of Roberson's summer visits, but this marked the first time the pair had crossed paths since Bey has emerged as one of the top rebounders in the Pac-12 Conference.
"I would just tell him to work hard every day, to come in with that attitude of going out there and taking on the best — whether it's the best at practice, or the best on the next team, or the best team in college basketball — and going out there to compete and do what you've got to do," Roberson said. "My thing was always going in with a chip on my shoulder. I was ranked (as a recruit) but low-ranked, kind of an overlooked guy.
"That was one of the reasons I chose CU was (it) was in the Big 12 at the time, not knowing they were going to the Pac-12. I enjoyed every minute of it. Tad is a great coach. He kind of recruited me here and I said, 'I want to play for that guy'."
In three seasons at CU, Roberson put together the top two single-season rebounding marks in program history in terms of total rebounds, grabbing 401 in 2011-12 and 347 the following year. His average of 11.2 in 2012-13 is tied for eighth all-time and his 11.1 mark in 2011-12 ranks 10th.
Bey has been doing the best Roberson impersonation of his still-young career going into Saturday's home date against Utah (4 p.m., ESPNU). The 20 points and 11 rebounds Bey recorded during last week's loss at Washington was his 11th double-double of the season and Bey's fifth in the past seven games.
At 9.4 rebounds per game, Bey ranks second in the Pac-12 — he is fractions ahead of USC's Nick Rakocevic — and he is on pace to turn in the Buffs' best season rebounding average since Roberson's 11.2 mark in 2012-13. Bey's scoring average of 12.6 points per game is a touch better than Roberson's career-best scoring mark of 11.6 in the 2011-12 season.
"He's a great mentor just because of what he did and what he accomplished," Bey said. "I'm chasing something he did, but I want to make a name for myself. I'm doing everything I can to do that."
Roberson has not played all season for Oklahoma City due to a torn left patellar tendon he suffered about 13 months ago. Roberson declined to discuss a rehab process that suffered a well-publicized setback a few months ago, yet his comeback trail likely will provide another valuable life lesson to the young Buffs.
"I'm just enjoying the process," Roberson said. "Life throws curve balls. You have to take it and deal with it. Everybody's got them. It just happens to be mine at the moment."