Evan Battey ramping up comeback efforts for CU men’s basketball

Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Evan Battey’s return would bolster the Buffs frontcourt that saw promising signs from freshmen Tyler Bey and Dallas Walton this past season

It may not qualify as a tweet-heard-’round-the world, but for Colorado basketball fans it certainly was a heartening update.

On Tuesday evening, freshman forward Evan Battey posted a video of teammate McKinley Wright in the CU weight room, capping the update with the grammatically challenged yet highly encouraging declaration, “yeahhh im back.”

Sidelined since suffering a stroke over the holidays while in his southern California hometown, it is looking more likely the affliction will not lead to a premature end to Battey’s basketball career. However, while the 6-foot-8 forward is ramping up his strength and conditioning drills, head coach Tad Boyle still is erring on the side of caution by not yet inking Battey into his 2018-19 rotation.

To use an analogy favored by the CU football team, consider Battey a part of the “pencil” rotation.

“I think until he gets back into the real rigors of being a Division I basketball player in the Pac-12 Conference … I’m confident and should say I’m cautiously optimistic,” Boyle said. “I’m confident that will take place. He is on the road back. We are monitoring him every time he steps foot on the floor, so it’s not like he can go from zero to a hundred right away. We’re going to bring him back slowly.

“Our doctors have been very cautious and our training staff has been very cautious. We will continue to do that. But we’ll ramp him up hopefully to the level he needs to be.”

While the stroke at least didn’t rob Battey of official playing time — he was taking a redshirt season anyway after being ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA during the preseason — he was unable to practice with the Buffaloes during the final two-plus months of the season. Battey already has begun light shooting drills and will continue to intensify his conditioning throughout the summer under the supervision of CU’s sports medicine staff.

Boyle has stated repeatedly that Battey would have had a secure place in the 2017-18 rotation if not for the NCAA’s preseason ruling. His return would bolster a frontcourt that saw promising signs from freshmen Tyler Bey and Dallas Walton this past season, as well as an encouraging late-season surge from sophomore Lucas Siewert.

The Buffs also are adding 6-foot-10 European forward Jakub Dombek to the mix. Wednesday was the beginning of the spring signing period, but as of late Wednesday afternoon CU still was awaiting the arrival of Dombek’s national letter of intent.

“I just know from Evan’s mentality and his mindset, he is back,” Boyle said. “He’s excited to be back and we’re certainly excited that he is. I just hope and pray and I’m cautiously optimistic that will continue.”

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