Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
It perhaps takes a little longer for their old joints to loosen up, and at first Friday morning there were quite a few bricks being laid around the practice gym at the CU Events Center.
Inevitably, however, the skills that still make this particular group of Colorado basketball alums solid pros in a variety of leagues worldwide were dusted off, and once again Team Colorado was off and running. On Friday, Team Colorado began its annual weekend training camp at the University of Colorado in preparation for The Basketball Tournament, the ESPN-sponsored, winner-take-all, $2 million competition that begins in two weeks.
Team Colorado nearly hit the jackpot two years ago but let an early lead slip away in the championship game. Despite adding Josh Scott and Chris Copeland to the mix a year ago, Team Colorado was eliminated in the Sweet 16. While Scott is focused on building on a solid pro season in Japan, Copeland and a familiar group of former Buffaloes have reunited once again in pursuit of the $2 million prize.
“After working so much with college guys, I realize these guys have their own routines, they have their own things that help them get ready to play,” said former Buff Dwight Thorne, the director of operations at the University of Denver who is serving as Team Colorado’s coach for the third consecutive year. “One thing I’ve learned is that for me to evaluate our guys the best, we’ve got to play more. So we’re going to focus on playing more this training camp. Seeing where guys are physically, seeing where guys are skill-wise, to see how we can play as a cohesive unit.”
Copeland is among a number of familiar faces filling the Team Colorado roster, which again includes past team members Marcus Relphorde, Austin Dufault, Richard Roby, Dominique Coleman, Marcus Hall, Michel Morandais, Shannon Sharpe, and Calvin Williams. Among the small contingent of newcomers for Team Colorado are Jeremy Williams, 2016 graduate Xavier Talton and former CU guard James Wright. Only Wright and Dufault are absent this weekend due to prior commitments.
Last month, general manager and former CU player Beau Gamble hinted this year’s TBT might be the last run for the core group that helped make Colorado a factor in the summer basketball showcase, potentially paving the way for more recent CU alums to join the mix. If so, that potential changing of the guard is not being discussed openly as a rallying point or as a source of extra motivation.
“We’re not going to look at it from that standpoint,” Thorne said. “Last year we had some hype. We had some expectations, We had some things we wanted to accomplish. And while we didn’t do it, we still won the first two games. The third game, we lost. That’s nothing to hang your head about, but I think there was added pressure that brought some things we didn’t really need.
“This year we’re going to take it one practice at a time, one play at a time, one game at a time, one week at a time and see where the cards fall.”
As usual the reunion weekend will provide an opportunity for CU’s basketball alums to mingle with coach Tad Boyle’s current players. While the current Buffs typically have the NBA on their minds, a look around the practice gym this weekend will reveal a number of players who have been able to enjoy long, lucrative careers playing basketball while seeing the world.
“I talked to the guys and told them I’d like them to share what regrets you have from your time at Colorado that maybe our players currently can learn from, so when they’re you’re age they don’t have those,” Boyle said. “It’s just a different voice in their ears than mine. And they’re voices I think our players respect and admire.”
Team Colorado, the No. 2 seed in the West Region, opens The Basketball Tournament on July 14 in Los Angeles against the winner of a play-in game between Dubois Dream and Kimchi Express.