It’s one of those good-problems-to-have for Colorado men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle.
The Buffaloes of 2019-20 should feature one their deepest and most versatile frontcourt rotations in recent memory. Highlighting that group is small forward Tyler Bey, a Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year candidate and a likely future NBA draft pick who led the Buffs in scoring and rebounding.
Yet that depth certainly goes well beyond Bey, whose length and leaping ability also gives him the versatility to guard bigger post players down low. In Evan Battey, the Buffs boast a 264-pound bruiser with a soft touch around the glass who has the potential to become a premier rebounder. While Lucas Siewert’s 3-point shot has run hot-and-cold the past two seasons, he is coming off a career-best season on the glass, and when that long-range shot is on target the Buffs are tough to beat.
This year, that frontcourt rotation welcomes back 7-footer Dallas Walton, a potential rim-protector at the back end of the defense who missed last season due to a knee injury. Behind that quartet, Alex Strating found a way to make meaningful contributions in limited minutes down the stretch last season, while 6-foot-10 local walk-on Frank Ryder might even get called upon on occasion to provide a few minutes.
Then there’s Jakub Dombek.
The 6-foot-11 native of the Czech Republic remains a raw yet intriguing prospect for the Buffs as they go through preseason workouts. Dombek possess some of the skills owned by each of the aforementioned big men, yet the start of his second season in the program finds the redshirt freshman still attempting to put it all together.
“He’s coming along. Done some really nice things. Like most guys that are young in their career, consistency is the key,” Boyle said. “He’s got great size, great length, great skill. Runs the floor as well as any big we have. And I think he’s starting to figure things out a little bit. The good thing about Jakub is he would make a mistake last year, and he wouldn’t even know what he did wrong or what the mistake was. But now he’s starting to recognize and understand so he catches himself. That’s the first sign of self-awareness and making yourself a better player. You can’t be a coach all the time. You have to make self-corrections out on the floor. He’s starting to do that.”
One of Dombek’s biggest challenges during his redshirt season was to add bulk to his lanky frame. Boyle described that effort as “mixed reviews,” but added that while the weight gains may not have been overly dramatic — Dombek checks in at just 190 pounds — he nonetheless has made significant strength gains.
Dombek’s strengths still reside in his shooting and play-making skills, but he has worked throughout the past year on improving his game in the paint. For his part, Dombek reports his conditioning has improved by leaps and bounds since he arrived at CU about 14 months ago. There was little chance of Dombek cracking the rotation unless he could run up and down the floor alongside the starters. This year, that no longer is an issue.
“I got into shape finally. I was struggling with that all last year,” Dombek said. “I couldn’t run with those guys up and down. I got stronger and that helps me a lot in the post right now, so I don’t have to play just outside the paint. I can post somebody. I couldn’t go for offensive rebounds. Now that I’m in shape I can run with those guys. Everything has come along with being in better shape. Last year I wasn’t able to guard Evan in the post. This year it’s much, much better.”