The newcomers with the Colorado men’s basketball team understand a large portion of the burden of returning the Buffaloes to a state of consistent NCAA Tournament contention is on them.
And perhaps no one among that group will face more pressure than D’Shawn Schwartz.
Saddled with the twin burdens of being the highest-ranked recruit in CU’s 2017 freshman class while also representing the group’s only in-state recruit, Schwartz arrived in Boulder this month alongside classmates McKinley Wright and Tyler Bey ready to get to work.
“I’m trying to get acclimated, first off. Finding where my classes are and everything like that,” Schwartz said. “Then I’m trying to build chemistry with everybody. I think a big focus for me is just making sure my shot is knocked down. And I know coach is going to focus on rebounding for me, so that’s something else.
“It probably would have been a big punch in the face if we can in (the fall) and had to do four classes, five classes. We just have one right now.”
Schwartz, from Sand Creek High School in Colorado Springs, was ranked as the No. 67 recruit in the nation by Rivals.com and was slotted at No. 86 by Scout.com. He was the centerpiece of a class Rivals ranked 25th nationally, a group also set to include Tyler Bey, McKinley Wright, Evan Battey, and Lazar Nikolic. The group also collectively cracked ESPN’s top 40 recruiting classes at No. 39.
Schwartz essentially averaged a double-double at Sand Creek, recording 25.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. He shot an even 50 percent from the field, 39 percent from 3-point range (52-for-133), and a solid 79 percent at the free throw line.
Yet despite his pedigree and sizeable long-range potential, Schwartz will join a crowded field of contenders jostling for playing time along the wing. Top returning scorer and rebounder George King should lead that pack, leaving Schwartz in a battle for minutes with Bey, Nikolic, and Missouri transfer Namon Wright. Add to the equation that forward Lucas Siewert operates frequently from the perimeter and that two of CU’s three smaller guards — Wright, Dom Collier, and Deleon Brown — conceivably could be on the floor together as well, and Schwartz understands recruit rankings will mean nothing once it comes time for coach Tad Boyle to settle on a rotation.
“He said it’s mainly a reset year. Reset, not rebuilding,” Schwartz said. “We’ve got probably one of the best coming-in groups of players that Colorado has had in a long time. He wants us to go out there and make a statement. Really, we have the ability to win a Pac-12 championship if we figure it out.”
Summer of course is a crucial time for any true freshman, but the glut of newcomers joining the Buffs arrives during an opportune offseason. In August, the Buffs travel to Italy for a four-game swing of exhibition games. Not only will the extended road trip offer a chance at fortifying unity on a team full of new faces, but the young Buffs will face healthy competition against European pros.
“Because we lost so much experience and we have so many spots open, this is a huge summer not only for our freshmen, but certainly for our returning players as well,” Boyle said. “It’s a big summer for Colorado basketball, there’s no doubt about it, and the freshmen are a big part of that.”