An intriguing long-range reinforcement is on the way for the Colorado men’s basketball team, potentially offering a remedy for the biggest hole left behind by the 2018 seniors.
While Shane Gatling already has officially come aboard, the player whose place he will take on the Buffaloes’ roster remains up in the air.
On Monday, the Buffs received a national letter of intent from Gatling, a 6-foot-2 guard who spent last season at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa after playing his freshman year at Niagara. Gatling is immediately eligible for the 2018-19 season and has two seasons of eligibility remaining.
Head coach Tad Boyle’s roster appeared set with last week’s addition of 6-foot-10 forward Jakub Dombek from the Czech Republic. Dombek’s signing left the Buffs with the full allotment of 13 scholarships for the 2018-19 season, meaning that unless Gatling is willing to pay to play someone will have to relinquish his spot for the newcomer.
Boyle, however, remained non-committal on Monday evening as to who that player might be.
“I’m not at liberty right now to talk about that,” Boyle said. “But I will be in the next couple days.”
Gatling earned junior college All-American honors this past season at Indian Hills, averaging 16.6 points while tying the program record with 102 3-pointers. Gatling shot .384 from 3-point range and .426 overall while also posting an impressive .850 mark at the free throw line (113-for-133). Gatling averaged 2.9 assists per game and posted an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.89.
At Niagara as a freshman during the 2016-17 season, Gatling appeared in 33 games (four starts), averaging 4.7 points while going 30-for-88 (.341) on 3-pointers.
In Gatling, the Buffs welcome a player who can occasionally spell McKinley Wright at point guard while filling the long-range void left behind by graduating seniors George King and Dom Collier. King finished his career ranked second all-time at CU with a .401 3-point percentage, while Collier’s 126 career made 3-pointers is tied for 11th all-time.
“When you look at what we lost this year and what we need to replace, he definitely helps in that regard with 3-point shooting,” Boyle said. “But he’s more than that. He can play the point as well. He had almost a two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio, so he’s a good decision-maker with the basketball. And he’s more athletic than people think. He’s a guy that can play above the rim from the guard position. He’s got a chance to be good.
“To me, he’s exactly what we need given what we lost.”
While Boyle offered no hints as to the corresponding roster move expected to unfold later this week, there are several candidates who might consider transferring elsewhere. If playing time strictly is the measuring stick, redshirt freshman forward Alex Strating played a total of only seven minutes over five games and will have difficulty cracking a frontcourt rotation set to include Lucas Siewert, Dallas Walton, Tyler Bey, Evan Battey, and possibly Dombek.
Guard Deleon Brown, coming off his sophomore season, saw his playing time decrease down the stretch and will face an even bigger logjam in the perimeter rotation with Gatling, Elijah Parquet, and Denver East’s Daylen Kountz joining the Buffs next season. And while Serbian guard Lazar Nikolic has not shown any overt signs of homesickness, being half a world away from home for a year can always alter a young man’s priorities.