It is no surprise Colorado men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle isn’t yet ready to declare who the starting five will be when the Buffaloes hit the floor in China Nov. 8 for the season-opener against Arizona State.
The reality, however, is that four of those spots are all but secured. And with the departure date for the China trip now less than two weeks away (the Buffs leave Nov. 2) the race is on for the final off-guard spot to start alongside junior point guard McKinley Wright.
Barring injury or some other unexpected turn of events, Wright will assume his typical starting role against ASU alongside Tyler Bey, D’Shawn Schwartz, and Evan Battey. The remainder of the preseason will witness a battle for that final starting guard spot between Shane Gatling, Daylen Kountz, Eli Parquet, and Maddox Daniels.
Who stands out at that spot might be a matter for Buffs fans to keep their eyes on when CU hosts Division III Pomona-Pitzer in an exhibition game Saturday (1 p.m., CU Events Center).
“I would say McKinley, D’Shawn, Tyler, and Evan have solidified themselves,” Boyle said. “Now, that said, to me I look at a guy like Lucas Siewert as a starter. He might not start, but he started a lot of games last year and he may start some this year. I’m not concerned with it. But it’s that extra perimeter spot that’s kind of up for grabs. You’ve got Daylen, you’ve got Maddox, you’ve got Eli, and you’ve got Shane in no particular order.”
Boyle has a number of variables to dissect before making his decision.
Daniels and Gatling provide the best 3-point shooting among the four final-starter candidates, though Gatling shot just .319 on 3-pointers while playing all 36 games last year (33 starts). Daniels is a junior college transfer playing his first season of Division I basketball, but he also is expected to shore up the Buffs’ subpar 3-point percentage from a year ago (.323). At 6-foot-6, Daniels also provides the biggest option at the two guard.
Kountz, the sophomore from Denver East, probably is the most dynamic scorer of the bunch, and he is coming off a strong finish to his freshman season. The 6-foot-4 Kountz also would be a bigger complement to the 6-foot Wright, though as a sophomore Kountz will be counted on to improve on last year’s .308 mark on 3-pointers (16-or-52) and .646 mark at the free throw line (42-for-65). Parquet (6-3) is the best defensive option of the bunch, but Boyle likely would need to be confident the Buffs would get enough opening offense from the other four starters, as Parquet shot just 11-for-41 (.268) overall last year and 5-for-21 (.238) on 3-pointers.
Boyle said another factor in his final decision will be to analyze which of those players might be best suited to lighting a spark off the bench. Regardless, the Buffs look to feature a strong bench with three of those four possible fifth-starters — Gatling, Daniels, Parquet, and Kountz — playing alongside Siewert, 7-footer Dallas Walton, Alex Strating, and Jakub Dombek.
“It’s not necessarily who is going to start, it’s who’s going to really help that second unit. Or who’s going to be that guy coming off the bench that’s going to give you that shot in the arm,” Boyle said. “That’s as much about what’s going into that decision as anything. Because in practice, anyone that we plug into that fifth spot with McKinley, Evan, D’Shawn, and Tyler, he does pretty well. It’s which guy helps that second unit best.”