It wasn’t difficult to pick Evan Battey out of the crowd on any court in high school or on the AAU circuit. Even at the Pac-12 Conference level, the 6-foot-8, 264-pound Battey strikes a presence on the floor.
When Colorado men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle first settled into the bleachers to watch the prospective Buffalo play years ago, it wasn’t Battey’s size, soft shooting touch, or even the surprisingly nimble feet on that hulking frame. It was the way Battey was able to deliver pinpoint passes, one after another, to all corners of the floor from the post.
That skill was in the spotlight Tuesday night, as Battey collected four assists, all in the first half, in the Buffs’ 82-58 dismantling of South Dakota.
“We knew Evan was a great passer when we recruited him,” Boyle said. “That’s one of the things I loved about him. He was a guy that could catch the ball on the block, and in high school or AAU ball you had to double him, because if you didn’t double him he was going to score. He would just physically overpower kids in high school.
“He’s not necessarily going to always be able to physically overpower guys in college, but when they double him it’s a dangerous deal because he can find the open man pretty well. And he enjoys that. Evan enjoys passing the ball.”
On several occasions Tuesday night Battey was able to deliver perfect passes to shooters stationed at the 3-point arc, and if not for a few errant shots Battey’s assist total would have been higher.
Even more impressive, however, was Battey’s ability to hit teammates cutting to the basket in stride from his position on the low block. Battey hit the left-handed D’Shawn Schwartz for a right-handed dunk and a 3-point play, and later found Lucas Siewert for a similarly easy finish.
“Hopefully our players are figuring that out. One way to get a shot is to get the ball in the post and move,” Boyle said. “D’Shawn got one that way. Lucas got one that way. We’ve got to understand that he’s a big weapon down there.”
Battey’s passing skills adds a dimension to a CU’s offense that it lacked a year ago. All of the Buffs’ big men from a year ago finished with more turnovers than assists, a list that includes Siewert (22 assists, 27 turnovers), Tyler Bey (16 assists, 38 turnovers) and Dallas Walton (21 assists, 28 turnovers).
Of course, that sort of ratio isn’t exactly out of the norm for big men, with Bey (1 assist, 12 turnovers) and Siewert (8 assists, 15 turnovers) staying true to that form so far this season. Battey, however, ranks third on the team with 11 assists against seven turnovers. While the competition will steadily improve for the Buffs going forward from Tuesday’s rout of South Dakota, Battey’s passing skills should remain a critical component of CU’s attack.
“I do whatever the team needs me to do. So if a guy’s open, I’m hitting him,” Battey said. “That’s just the way I play. I’ve always been a good passer and (my teammates) know that. They cut, they space out so I can hit them.”