(Note: This is the eighth of a series of player reviews from the CU men’s basketball team for the 2019-20 season).
The question was posed informally to Alex Strating midway through the season.
One year after providing a small yet significant spark during Colorado’s run of 12 wins in 16 games that closed the 2018-19 season, Strating was the odd man out of the Buffaloes’ frontcourt rotation in 2019-20. With Tyler Bey and Evan Battey entrenched as starters who logged heavy minutes, and with 7-footer Dallas Walton returning to the frontcourt rotation after missing a season due to injury, Strating’s minutes dropped significantly.
It was easy to wonder if the 6-foot-7 Strating, a fourth-year junior, might be a candidate to move on to a smaller Division I program where he might enjoy more playing time immediately as a graduate transfer. When asked about this possibility during the season, Strating expressed appreciation for his team, regardless of his role outside the spotlight.
“I really enjoy being part of this team,” Strating said. “I’m not the kind of person that minds being a small fish in a big pond.”
A year ago, Strating played his role to perfection, providing an infusion of energy and unexpected production on several occasions as the Buffs raced into the Pac-12 Conference tournament semifinals before reaching the NIT quarterfinals. That run was highlighted by a 4-for-6, 10-point performance off the bench in a win against Oregon State in the 2019 Pac-12 quarterfinals.
While head coach Tad Boyle expressed steadfast confidence in Strating throughout the past season, playing time proved far more elusive for Strating. After averaging eight minutes per contest while appearing in 29 games during the 2018-19 season, Strating got off the bench only 15 times this year while logging a total of 53 minutes — a full 178 fewer minutes than a year earlier.
Strating scored just four points and did not play due to a coach’s decision 17 times after suffering that fate only 10 times in 2018-19. The lack of playing time certainly did not reflect the praise Boyle generally heaped upon Strating when asked about his role on the team.
“We see what he does, we see what he’s about,” Boyle said of Strating during the season. “He’s running the sprints. He’s winning the sprints on the gray team half the time. He’s a guy that prepares himself. When his number is called, you know he’s going to be ready.”
Last week, Boyle confirmed that he does not expect further roster defections beyond the postseason announcements that Jakub Dombek and Daylen Kountz would be transferring out of the program. That means Strating will be in the fold as a fifth-year senior next season. While point guard McKinley Wright IV, assuming he returns to CU, will remain the Buffs’ floor general, and Evan Battey provides the emotional spark, Strating’s leadership as a classic “glue guy” will be no less important to the Buffs as they regroup to attempt another run at the NCAA Tournament.