Is this home finale for CU Buffs’ Tyler Bey? Only time will tell

Junior forward will make big decision following season

Colorado’s Tyler Bey shoots over California’s Andre Kelly during the February 6, 2020 in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

It is senior week for the 18th-ranked Colorado Buffaloes, as the program gets set to say farewell to seniors Shane Gatling and Lucas Siewert with a pair of crucial home games against USC and UCLA.

It just might also mark the last time Buffs fans can watch the electric Tyler Bey as well.

Bey, CU’s All-Pac-12 junior forward, remains undecided about his future and possibly turning pro after this season, with that decision not likely to be settled until much later in the spring. Asked this week if it will be difficult to not consider if the final homestand, which begins Thursday against USC (7 p.m., ESPN2), might be his last games at the CU Events Center, Bey conceded that could be the case. Yet he’s not approaching these games with the mindset of it being some sort of bittersweet finale.

“I honestly don’t know. I want to come back, honestly,” Bey said. “I feel like we’ve got a lot we can accomplish, even this year. We’ve already accomplished this much this year, and we can accomplish a lot more next year. But I don’t know. I honestly don’t. I’m just waiting it out and seeing how everything falls into place.”

After a big finish to his sophomore season a year ago, Bey was projected in many 2020 mock NBA drafts as a likely first-round pick. His stock has cooled slightly since then, with most mock drafts now pegging him somewhere in the mid-to-late second round. Of course, that can always change with another strong finish, especially if Bey turns in big-time performances at the Pac-12 Conference tournament or in the NCAA Tournament.

Bey won the Pac-12 Most Improved Player award last year and should be a candidate for the league’s defensive player of the year award this season.

In league games, Bey begins the week ranked second in the Pac-12 in rebounds per game (9.2) and seventh in field goal percentage (.531). Overall, Bey is averaging 13.5 points per game, and last week he became the 36th CU player to reach 1,000 points in his career. With 21 points in Saturday’s win at Oregon State, Bey passed Chauncey Billups for 34th place on the Buffs’ all-time scoring list.

Bey also ranks eighth all-time in total rebounds (752), and he became just the seventh player in team history to compile at least 1,000 points alongside at least 750 rebounds. His 29 career double-doubles is tied for the 10th-most in program history. Bey also already has posted career-highs in assists (37) and steals (39) while going 12-for-24 on 3-pointers.

If there has been a knock on Bey this season, and a possible nick on his draft resume, it is that he has struggled against some of the top frontcourt competition the Buffs have faced. Bey was held to a season-low four points last week at Oregon, and he also struggled at Kansas (five points, nine rebounds) and at Arizona (nine points, four rebounds).

One factor that might weigh heavily in a possible return to CU by Bey is the vast potential of next year’s squad. While NBA prospects routinely leave very good teams early at places like Kansas and Duke, having Final Four potential at those programs typically is just another year in the life. Bey shares a genuine rapport with his teammates, and his return could give the Buffs their best back-to-back teams in program history.

“I love playing with these dudes,” Bey said. “I don’t want to throw a year away for no reason. I’m just going to keep playing and see what happens.”

Bey turned 22 on Feb. 10, and though NBA executives tend to prefer younger draft options, Bey’s age shouldn’t be a detriment to getting drafted, even if he stays another year. Former CU star George King was 24 when he was drafted in the second round of the 2018 draft, and Derrick White was just weeks away from his 23rd birthday when he was selected at the end of the first round in 2017.