It was a win-win situation for the player and the program. And a fortuitous stroke of timing as well.
Upon deeper consideration, Keeshawn Barthelemy decided he was ready to begin his collegiate basketball career in the United States this fall, even if that meant crossing the Canadian border a year earlier than planned. As luck would have it one of his top suitors, Colorado coach Tad Boyle, happened to still have an open scholarship at his disposal over the summer.
Now, after Barthelemy’s whirlwind assimilation into CU in late August and early September, the Buffaloes’ newcomer has the potential to be a rare and intriguing type of asset. As the Buffs embark on a season they expect will end with an NCAA Tournament berth, Barthelemy represents the sort of potential building block of talent good programs stockpile to make certain that possible tourney berth is a legitimate annual goal and not a one-year aberration.
The likely heir apparent to McKinley Wright at point guard, Barthelemy was set to attend a prep school in 2019-20 before opting to reclassify and accept Boyle’s offer to move to Boulder.
“I started thinking about (reclassifying) around the spring,” Barthelemy said. “I knew I had a chance to reclassify and Colorado was one of my main options. Probably the main option, because of how they develop guards. I felt like it was a good fit for me.
“I feel like going to prep would’ve been a year like I was in high school and maybe not get better. But here the team looks really good. I’m building chemistry with the guys and I’m getting better each day competing.”
One thing that has stood out about Barthelemy during the preseason, and which was on display last week during the Buffs’ intrasquad scrimmage, is how smoothly he operates within CU’s offense. Rarely does Barthelemy get lost within the motion offense. And he might already be the Buffs’ fastest player with the ball in his hands from free throw line to free throw line.
The 6-foot-2 guard was ranked as a four-star recruit by 247Sports.com, but he understands he must add some muscle to his 165-pound frame.
“For me, it’s just getting my body stronger,” Barthelemy said. “That’s my main area of growth.”
A member of Canada’s fourth-place team at the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup, Barthelemy is expected to redshirt this season. Though he is likely to eventually handle the Buffs’ point guard duties, Boyle also is intrigued by the idea of having one season of Barthelemy alongside Wright, assuming the latter opts to return to CU for his senior season.
“He is smooth. High basketball IQ. Great feel for the game. Great listener,” Boyle said. “One thing I’ve learned about Keeshawn, he listens. Very coachable. You tell him one thing, or you ask him a question, he’s got a good feel for what’s going on out there. He can make plays. He’s going to be a good player.”
“I think he’s learned so much already. This year, he is a good listener, so he can watch, and it sinks in and now he incorporates that into his game. He’s going to be a special player. What I like, and we talked about this with Keeshawn when we recruited him, but when McKinley does leave this program, he certainly is going to be ready to certainly step into that kind of role. But he might have a year where he can play with McKinley. And they’re really good together. Really good together. That’s really exciting for me in terms of the future. In terms of the now, let’s just try to get him better and get our team better every day. But I’m really, really glad we have him.”