The two freshmen from the Colorado basketball recruiting class of 2018 bring wildly divergent games to the court. Yet both of them, Eli Parquet and particularly Daylen Kountz, will be counted on to fill key roles if the Buffaloes wish to turn their lofty preseason expectations into reality.
Kountz brought an attack-the-basket mindset to Boulder from Denver East, and his late-season surge that included several memorable highlights at the Pac-12 Conference tournament has the sophomore penciled in for a pivotal role on a team that might boast its first national ranking in nearly six years when the AP preseason top 25 is released Monday morning.
Parquet also enjoyed a solid finish to his freshman season, though his improvement was perhaps more subtle and ultimately was derailed by a knee injury. Kountz has a chance to be a breakout star in the 2019-20 season, while Parquet could work his way into the rotation primarily as a defensive specialist.
“His teammates really believe in (Kountz),” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “Daylen is so good in the open floor. He’s so good going to the basket. He can make plays. He can be a play-maker for us. He’s probably wired to drive. Where a guy like Shane (Gatling) or Maddox (Daniels), they’re wired to shoot. The counter to that is he has to be able to get his feet set and take the open shot when it’s there. Don’t force the issue.”
In an era when Steph Curry’s step-back 3-pointers have become the Be Like Mike model for this generation, Kountz is somewhat of a throwback, an aggressive slasher more prone at attacking the rim than hanging out at the 3-point arc. Kountz provided some electric moments during CU’s run of 12 wins in 15 games late last season, coming off the bench to score eight points in a win against Cal in the first round of the Pac-12 tourney and adding another 10 points in a win against Norfolk State in the second round of the NIT.
Still, college basketball is dominated by the 3-point shot, and Kountz has spent his offseason attempting to hone his outside range. He posted a solid .430 shooting percentage overall last year despite a .308 mark on 3-pointers. Parse the numbers and Kountz shot nearly 49 percent on his 2-point attempts. The 6-foot-4 Kountz finished with more assists (46) than turnovers (41), which always is an encouraging sign for a freshman, but improving that outside shot along with his one-on-one defense remain the priorities for Kountz as a sophomore.
“That was the biggest thing I worked on, just getting up a lot of shots,” Kountz said. “I felt like I improved a lot over the summer. I’m more confident when I’m shooting. For the most part, it’s just getting in the gym and shooting. Making sure things are square and lined up to the rim. Making sure I’m holding my follow-through and finishing through it.”
Parquet is Kountz’s philosophical opposite, a defensive specialist who also was gaining traction late last year. Parquet recorded three steals in the two games during the Buffs’ swing through Washington, and he was called upon by Boyle to help slow down the league-leading UW Huskies in a game that was turning into a rout. The Buffs didn’t win, but Parquet’s second-half defense was a big reason why CU at least had a fighting chance at a comeback.
Parquet suffered a hyper-extended knee at practice the following week and missed the next seven games. This preseason, Boyle has called Parquet the best cutter on the team, and despite his limited minutes he was one of just four CU players, and the only guard, to record at least 10 blocked shots last year (he had exactly 10). Parquet’s offseason was spent focused on a major mechanical alteration to his jump shot after he finished just 11-for-41 overall last year with a 5-for-21 mark on 3-pointers.
“I’ve been getting a lot of reps with it. I’ve still got some mechanical things to work on but I’m getting there,” Parquet said. “I’m more comfortable for sure. In the spring the coaches pointed out what I was doing wrong. I never really noticed it. I made that adjustment so I’ve been repping it out. That’s all I’ve been doing. It’s feels natural, back to normal.”