Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
The Gatling file
The lowdown: 6-foot-2 junior guard, Baldwin, N.Y.
Key stats: 9.7 ppg, .358 field goal percentage, .319 3-point percentage.
Strengths: Athleticism, 3-point shooting (though Gatling must improve on his .319 mark).
Weaknesses: Doesn’s showcase play-making ability frequently enough.
(This is the eighth in a series of nine BuffZone.com profiles reviewing the rotation players for the 2018-19 Colorado men’s basketball team.)
“Mixed reviews” probably describes no Colorado men’s basketball player more appropriately than junior guard Shane Gatling.
When Gatling was wooed from the junior college ranks, Buffaloes head coach Tad Boyle told Gatling he wanted him to be more than a 3-point ace. Yet make no mistake: After losing the top two 3-point shooters from the previous season, George King and Dom Collier, Boyle’s Buffs needed Gatling to provide some long-range punch.
That happened at times, sometimes in spectacular, game-changing fashion. Too often, however, Gatling was off the mark, though in the end his perimeter defense and play-making skills probably were a little better than advertised.
Before joining the Buffs, Gatling posted a .389 3-point percentage at Indian Hills Community College, paving the way for JUCO All-American honors for the 6-foot-2 guard. Though it wasn’t Gatling’s first season at the Division I level — he played one season at Niagara before transferring to Indian Hills — that 3-point percentage dipped to .319 in his first season playing in the Pac-12 Conference.
That mark isn’t what the Buffs were hoping for, as the club finished with a disappointing and somewhat surprising .323 percentage from the arc. That number was the second-lowest on Boyle’s nine seasons at CU, trailing only the .318 mark posted by the 2013-14 team that played the second half of the season without its top 3-point shooter, current Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie.
Still, Gatling had his moments. None were bigger than the 7-for-9 performance on 3-pointers Gatling turned in at UCLA on Feb. 6, with his season-best 28 points leading the Buffs to as key road win. He also went 3-for-4 from the arc in a win against Oregon State in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals and went 5-for-10 in a home win against Washington State.
Yet those game-breaking performances were too few for the Buffs. Gatling went 3-for-16 on 3-pointers during a five-game stretch that culminated with CU’s unsightly 1-2 showing at the Diamond Head Classic, and he backed that torrid showing at UCLA by going 3-for-12 on 3s in the next three games. He also was just 1-for-11 during CU’s three NIT games, though Gatling was gritting his way through an ankle injury.
Despite running hot-and-cold from the arc, Gatling showed promise in other departments heading into next season. Through the season’s first 15 games, Gatling didn’t produce a single game with more than two assists, going without one in five of those contests. He averaged just 1.7 assists for the season, yet beginning with a home loss against Washington on Jan. 12, when Gatling picked up the slack for injured point guard McKinley Wright with a season-high six-assists, he averaged 2.2 the rest of the way. A modest increase for sure, but it also was encouraging that Gatling finished with more assists (60) than turnovers (44). Gatling was somewhat up-and-down defensively but certainly showed he was a capable defender, ranking second on the team with 34 steals. He also led the third-best free-throw shooting team in CU history with an .825 mark (85-for-103).
Heading into the 2019-20 campaign, Gatling likely can be counted on to improve on that .319 3-point mark. He is too good a shooter to dip further south. Gatling played in all 36 games and started 33, but he will have more competition for that shooting guard spot from new junior college commit Maddox Daniels, a 6-foot-6 guard who shot .431 from 3-point range this season at Florida Southwestern. How Gatling’s minutes pan out might depend more on the other aspects of his game than how much is 3-point shot rounds into form.