A world of change since CU men’s basketball last gathered together

Tad Boyle’s club, including most newcomers, on verge of campus return

Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
Though most of the Colorado Buffaloes men’s basketball team will be back in Boulder by June 15, in-house workouts will still be voluntary and operated under strict health guidelines.

Needless to say, the world is a much different place than the last time the entire Colorado men’s basketball team was together.

In mid-March, the Buffaloes were reeling from a five-game losing streak that stretched into the Pac-12 Conference tournament, where they lost the opening game of a league tourney for the first time in coach Tad Boyle’s 10 seasons at CU. That setback was magnified when the NCAA Tournament bid the Buffs already had earned was erased when the tournament, along with all other professional and collegiate sports, was shelved indefinitely amid the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

No doubt, those frustrations probably still sting. Yet with Boyle’s bunch finally ready to gather together once again in Boulder, those problems might also feel somewhat trivial.

Since scattering in mid-March, the American death toll from the coronavirus has topped 100,000. Over the past week and a half civil unrest has gripped the nation with cries for radical societal change following the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed in Minneapolis when a police officer now charged with second-degree murder, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee into the back of Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes.

A few untimely losses and the loss of a special postseason opportunity might now have taken on a different perspective in the big picture. Nonetheless, Boyle expects to have the bulk of his club back in Boulder in less than two weeks, and the first step toward moving forward on the court and even off it will be to enjoy the long-awaited reunion.

“For the most part we’ll have everyone here on the 15th,” Boyle said. “The out-of-state guys have to do a seven-day quarantine, so a lot of those guys are coming back on the sixth. It will just be good to see them face-to-face. There’s a lot of protocols that our university and the athletic department have in place that we will be following. But I’m excited.”

Last month, the NCAA announced schools could resume voluntary athletic workouts beginning June 1. The Pac-12 Conference pushed that date to June 15 for its member schools, and Boyle said the bulk of his team will be back in Boulder by then. Two notable exceptions will be Canadian guard Keeshawn Barthelemy, who is expected to return to CU by early July, and new freshman signee Tristan da Silva.

Da Silva, a German national and the younger brother of Stanford star Oscar da Silva, likely won’t arrive until at least August due to the mounds of paperwork required to get international recruits on campus. The remainder of CU’s newcomers — freshmen Dominique Clifford, Luke O’Brien, and Jabari Walker, in addition to Tulsa graduate transfer Jeriah Horne — are expected to make their official arrivals on campus.

“The basketball workouts are voluntary, so we’re not even allowed to be in the gym with them. It won’t be your typical summer access with our guys starting on June 15,” Boyle said. “We’ll see how that plays out throughout the summer. There are still a lot of moving parts to that. It’s just good for our guys to be back in the gym. A lot of them have found gyms on their own. And with this opening up, you’ve got different cities and different counties with different rules. Obviously we’re dealing with the University of Colorado and Boulder County, so we’re going to follow their rules.

“Again, wish we could be in the gym with them. We’ll be able to watch film on Zoom with them but not face-to-face, hopefully until July 1. We’ve got to figure out what the best way to approach that is. It’s just good to get them on campus. Once we do that, we’ll figure out how we can best serve them.”