Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer
Tad Boyle put lofty expectations on Tyler Bey’s shoulders early last year, refusing to be shy about lauding a player who had just set foot on campus as having the same rebounding potential of Andre Roberson, one of the greatest rebounders in Colorado basketball history.
Boyle eventually eased those expectations somewhat as Bey endured the ups-and-downs in 2017-18 typical of most freshmen. Still, with Bey emerging as a star right before his eyes, Boyle can’t help but keep that bar raised high for the sophomore forward.
“I expect Tyler Bey to be a double-double guy night in and night out,” Boyle said. “He’s close to that. There’s a couple games where he had foul trouble and didn’t get a ton of rebounds. But I expect him to be a double-digit scorer for us and a double-digit rebounder.”
Much like Lucas Siewert’s late emergence last season, Buffs fans are watching Bey coming into his own, albeit in the form of a much more explosive and versatile player.
Going into Saturday’s matchup against Indiana State in the opening game of the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii (1 p.m. MT, ESPNU), Bey owns a streak of three double-doubles in the past four games. A year ago at this time, the energetic Bey often couldn’t coral all that energy and athleticism enough to let the game slow down. Nine games into his sophomore season, Bey has quickly emerged as a two-way force.
Defensively, Bey has a chance of returning from Hawaii with more blocked shots than he collected all last season. Offensively, Bey is contributing with an array of weapons, from mid-range jumpers to post moves to thunderous finishes around the rim.
“For me, it’s not about the stats. It’s just about winning,” Bey said. “I do my part in every game, and that’s just what I try to do. Doing things that don’t involve scoring, like playing defense. I’m playing with a lot of confidence.”
Bey began the week ranked among the Pac-12 leaders in a number of categories, including rebounding average (sixth, 8.9), field goal percentage (eighth, .554) and blocks (sixth, 1.7 per game). After a somewhat slow start offensively, with Bey averaging 8.3 points through the season’s first four games, he has erupted of late, averaging 15.8 points over the past five games while shooting .563 (27-for-48) from the floor.
Bey’s quick feet and ability to play taller than his 6-foot-7 frame gives the Buffs arguably one of the most versatile defenders in the Pac-12. Boyle believes honing those defensive skills to fit particular situations on the floor is one of the next steps of Bey’s evolution.
“Defensively…I think he’s improved, and really he can guard any big guy around,” Boyle said. “He’s got such good feet. He’s got such good athleticism. What he’s got to improve is if he can consistently guard on the perimeter. Which he can. If he can focus in on, what’s the difference between guarding a 3-point shooter who can really guard it, versus a five-man who’s a driver but not a shooter. Or a pick-and-pop four-man.
“All those different matchups that Tyler’s going to be faced with guarding, can he make those adjustments mentally? That’s the biggest challenge for him. We know what he’s physically capable of.”