The Strating file
The lowdown: 6-7 redshirt sophomore forward, Wassenaar, Netherlands
Key stats: 1.9 ppg, 1.1 rpg while averaging 8.0 minutes in 29 games off the bench.
Strengths: Grit, basketball IQ.
Weaknesses: Defense, outside shooting.
(This is the seventh in a series of nine BuffZone.com profiles reviewing the rotation players for the 2018-19 Colorado men's basketball team.)
It is a testament to the adversity the Colorado Buffaloes faced with their manpower issues that the last man on the bench became an integral piece of the rotation.
It is a testament to Alex Strating that he turned into a player who wasn't looked upon simply to eat a few minutes here and there, but one whose contributions became critical as the Buffs played their way into the Pac-12 semifinals and the NIT quarterfinals.
In the beginning, the 6-foot-7 Strating wasn't expected to provide much more to the Buffs than he did a year earlier as a redshirt freshman, when he played just seven minutes in five games. Then the attrition hit. In particular, the loss of 7-foot forward Dallas Walton to a season-ending knee injury in October whittled the frontcourt depth for head coach Tad Boyle.
The door opened for Strating. He didn't exactly burst through it but, leaning on perseverance and the high basketball IQ continually lauded by Boyle, Strating eventually turned himself into a key component of the Buffs' late-season surge.
Strating didn't get on the floor twice in 12 nonconference games and logged double-digit minutes just twice during that span, both occurring in lopsided wins against Drake and Air Force. But Strating kept his head down and kept working, taking his minutes when allotted and generally making the most of them.
Ultimately, Strating became a regular contributor down the stretch, turning in a few memorable performances in the season's latter stages. In the Pac-12 Conference quarterfinals against Oregon State, Strating came off the bench to score a career-high 10 points on a 4-for-6 performance. Strating kept rolling in the Buffs' two wins in the NIT, going 2-for-3 with five points and three rebounds in the opener against Dayton before going 3-for-4 with six points and two rebounds in the second-round win against Norfolk State.
Strating always will have his limits as a Pac-12-level player. Opposing offenses often went right after him when he entered games, and he probably will never be more than a role player in Boulder. However, Strating deserves credit for recognizing those limitations and playing within them. For instance, he shot just .500 at the free throw line (11-for-22), yet by selectively picking his spots to score around the basket, he finished with a .688 mark from the field (22-for-32).
In 29 games off the bench, Strating averaged 8.0 minutes per game. Among the active roster, no player has been in the program longer than Strating, who took a redshirt season in 2016-17 in the same year junior forward Lucas Siewert was a freshman. While McKinley Wright is the clear floor general for the Buffs, Strating is the sort of gritty, nose-to-the-grindstone leader integral to any successful team.
However, Strating goes into the offseason with questions surrounding his role in 2018-19. While Walton's injury, combined with Evan Battey's penchant for foul trouble, made Strating a bigger part of the frontcourt rotation, that could change a year from now.
Battey is expected to improve on that front, and a healthy Walton is expected to be back in the mix. Add to the equation that 6-foot-11 freshman Jakub Dombek no longer will be a redshirt, and with walk-on Frank Ryder making huge strides after transferring from San Diego and recovering from heart surgery, and Strating could easily go from the fourth forward on the food chain to the seventh.
Even if that happens, Boyle and Buffs fans can expect Strating to give all he can if and when he is called upon.