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CU Buffs’ Shane Gatling grateful for guidance from Iona coach Tim Cluess

Buffs face Gaels for first time on Sunday

BOULDER, CO - Dec. 4, 2019: ...
Jeremy Papasso/ Staff Photographer
Colorado’s Shane Gatling credits Iona head coach Tim Cluess for setting him on a path that eventually landed him with the Buffaloes.

After its big win Saturday against then-No. 13 Dayton, the Colorado men’s basketball team was released for three days of holiday R&R.

The Buffaloes will reconvene in Boulder on Thursday afternoon to begin preparations for their final nonconference game of the season, a Sunday home date against Iona (noon, Pac-12 Network). For at least one CU player, it will be a somewhat emotional matchup.

Senior guard Shane Gatling was in basketball limbo following his freshman season, and it was some advice and guidance from Iona coach Tim Cluess that helped Gatling get his future sorted out. Cluess recruited Gatling out of high school, and Gatling said he also competed against Cluess’ son on the AAU circuit.

When Gatling was seeking a change of scenery after his freshman season at Niagara, he reconnected with Cluess. Though league rules prevented Gatling from transferring from Niagara to Iona, rivals in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Cluess used some of his connections to help Gatling land at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa.

After one big season at Indian Hills, Gatling was fielding bigger offers than what he experienced in his one season in the MAAC. So, in a way, Iona’s first visit to the CU Events Center will allow Gatling to show off his skills to the man who helped direct his basketball journey toward Boulder.

“They recruited me out of high school but they were worried about my grades,” Gatling said. “We still have a great relationship. I played with his son growing up but we weren’t really close. My freshman year, I played in the same conference as Iona, and you can’t transfer to the same conference. He wanted me, but he sent me to Indian Hills. I went there, weighed out my options, and I started to get bigger schools than Iona. I thanked him for what he did for me and I always thank him.”

With Pac-12 Conference play just around the corner — the Buffs open the league slate at home on Jan. 2 against No. 6 Oregon — Gatling could be in line for heavier minutes than what he has logged during CU’s 10-2 start.

After starting 33 of 36 games a year ago, Gatling has yet to crack the starting lineup this season but has enjoyed two of his most effective games of late.

In a road win at Colorado State on Dec. 13, Gatling saved the Buffs from an otherwise ugly offensive performance by going 7-for-12 overall and 4-for-6 on 3-pointers before finishing with a season-high 20 points.

Gatling didn’t score a point against Dayton, going 0-for-5 overall and 0-for-3 on 3-pointers, but for one of the few times in his CU career Gatling played heavy minutes despite an off-night offensively. Boyle praised Gatling’s defense afterward, and in a season-high 30-plus minutes, Gatling recorded a season-best four assists against just one turnover. Gatling has posted six assists in the past two games after tallying just four assists through the season’s first 10 games.

“It’s a huge win for us (against Dayton). Gets some momentum going into league play, especially with Oregon first in league play,” junior wing D’Shawn Schwartz said. “We’ve got to handle our business against Iona and then going into Pac-12, we have to be ready to play.”

“I think we’ve got to watch film and dial-in to the things we did really well in this game. Try to translate that to the rest of the season. Obviously there’s some mistakes that have to be cleaned up, and we’ve got to figure that out as well.”