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Rooney: Options open for CU basketball during July recruiting circuit

Buffs could go into season with two spots available for 2020 class

Colorado head coach Tad Boyle will probably go into the season with 12 scholarship players on the roster.
Ethan Miller / Getty Images North America
Colorado head coach Tad Boyle will probably go into the season with 12 scholarship players on the roster.

Until last fall, Colorado men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle had never gone into a season without his full allotment of scholarships filling the Buffaloes’ roster.

Chances are it will happen two years in a row, as it appears Boyle will go into his 10th season at CU with 12 scholarship players on the roster and an open spot for 2020 to be determined later.

Matters certainly can change, of course. But with the summer transfer market beginning to wane and the calendar soon changing from June to July, the 2019-20 academic year is just around the corner. Even in the immediate aftermath of a season that ended in the NIT quarterfinals at Texas on March 27, Boyle said that any open scholarships (the Buffs had one then that was filled by junior college guard Maddox Daniels, but had another open with the departure of Deleon Brown) would be utilized with an eye on the 2020-21 season, even if that meant bringing in a traditional transfer during the spring who would have to sit a season.

With the advent of the first annual NCAA evaluation camps later in July, Boyle and his staff, like their counterparts across the country, have been adjusting to a slightly altered summer recruiting routine with several evaluation periods looming in mid-to-late July. For the Buffs, it has been advantageous to do so with a roster and rotation that essentially is set. And it is equally advantageous for Boyle to keep that scholarship in his back pocket for what likely will be a much busier and more intense spring recruiting period for CU’s staff in 2020.

“It used to be summer recruiting was kind of relegated to July. Now it’s June and July,” Boyle said recently. “A lot of different kids play at different spots. Until it’s all said and done I’m not sure I can comment on it. It is a heck of a lot more travel and work on me and our staff than the normal summer. But that’s just part of it now.”

Assuming that open scholarship remains open when the Buffs complete a 2019-20 season they hope includes the program’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2016, CU will be in position to welcome three newcomers — the open scholarship, as well as those held by 2019-20 seniors Lucas Siewert and Shane Gatling.

One of those three spots tentatively has been claimed with a verbal commitment last winter from Columbine’s Luke O’Brien, a skilled 6-foot-7 wing who likely projects as D’Shawn Schwartz’s heir apparent at small forward. Look for the Buffs to target a potential point guard and a post player with the other two slots, though so far the Buffs’ other overtures toward 2019-20 high school seniors haven’t panned out. Over the winter the Buffs hosted Lamont Butler, a point guard prospect out of Riverside, Calif., but he recently committed to San Diego State. The Buffs also reportedly have an offer out to four-star forward prospect Dalen Terry out of Phoenix, but reported last week that Terry visited Arizona.

Barring extensive fallout from the NCAA investigation taking aim at UA’s embattled basketball program, anyone believe the Buffs have a fighting chance of landing an Arizona recruit ahead of the Wildcats?

Still, taking two open spots into the spring recruiting season likely will give Boyle more options. Keep in mind McKinley Wright landed in Boulder late after a coaching change at his original destination, Dayton, and there will be hundreds of players yet to be determined available via transfers. Going into the season with an open slot also allows Boyle the option of a midseason transfer, the sort of addition Washington will benefit from later this year when former Kentucky guard Quade Green regains his eligibility for the Huskies at the semester break.

All of that conjecture doesn’t factor in the possible 2020 early departures of Wright and especially Tyler Bey, who will find himself squarely in projections for the first round of the 2020 NBA draft if his junior season bears any resemblance to the last half of his sophomore season. But that will be a problem for another day. For now, expect Boyle and his staff to make plenty of contacts and perform binders full of evaluations over the next month.

Chances are, they will need all that knowledge next spring.