The Colorado men’s basketball team boasts solid veteran leadership. And whenever the 2020-21 season begins, whether it unfolds as scheduled or suffers a coronavirus-required delay, the Buffaloes also will welcome a solid rookie class with an impressive 2021 recruiting class gaining momentum in the background.
In between those extremes is a small group of veterans with eligibility remaining beyond 2020-21. Forward Evan Battey is set to be a fourth-year junior. Center Dallas Walton will be labeled as a senior on next season’s roster, but is expected to petition for a sixth season of eligibility following a slew of knee injuries.
And then there is Eli Parquet, a guard who has the potential to be the biggest X-factor of them all for the Buffs next season.
While the entire team suffered through an untimely slump during the season’s stretch run, perhaps no player endured more ups and downs individually than Parquet. As a sophomore, Parquet went from a key reserve to a starter to sitting in the rotation doghouse, only to recover and provide a few big moments during Pac-12 Conference play.
CU head coach Tad Boyle believes the athletic, 6-foot-3 guard has the ability to provide those moments a little more consistently as a junior.
“I think Eli is the one guy in our program that nobody talks about that can really have a breakout year for us,” Boyle said. “I look at him in the summer, and his body and where he’s at physically going into his junior year, and his experience factor. And I think now that Daylen Kountz has transferred (to Northern Colorado), a lot of times Daylen and Eli would share minutes. With Daylen’s departure, I think it’s really opening the door for Eli to really step up and have a significant impact. I look at his ability to defend, and he can be a lock-down defender for us. Certainly he can be an offensive threat and make open shots when he’s got them. But Eli’s got a chance to be a breakout guy for us, no doubt.”
After retooling the fundamentals of his jump shot last summer, Parquet averaged four more minutes per game during the 2019-20 season and posted much-improved shooting percentages, jumping from .268 overall to .385 while improving to .325 from 3-point range after going just 5-for-21 (.238) as a freshman.
Parquet enjoyed a seven-game run in the starting lineup during nonconference play, which ended when he played just five minutes in CU’s memorable buzzer-beating win against Dayton. From there, Parquet played only four minutes in a rout of Iona and didn’t play at all in the first two Pac-12 games.
Parquet didn’t play more than six minutes in any of the next six games, but he made an emphatic return to the rotation by recording five points, five rebounds (matching a career-high), one steal, and one blocked shot in a win at USC.
Instead of pouting when his role was abruptly diminished, Parquet embraced the challenge.
“It was really challenging because I had to keep my head together,” Parquet said. “It was kind of a mental game. If I didn’t keep my head together, I probably wouldn’t have played. That made me work even harder at practice, made me get extra shots up before practice and after practice, just so I could get on the court and get some playing time.”
Despite Kountz’s departure, Parquet likely will still be competition for playing time at the two-guard spot, with Keeshawn Barthelemy emerging from his redshirt season alongside the addition of Colorado Springs freshman Dominique Clifford. Boyle believes Parquet’s defensive potential, alongside the experience and wisdom he gained last season, could set him apart.
“We’ve got McKinley (Wright) and we’ve got Keeshawn coming on board. And D’Shawn (Schwartz), we know what he can do. You throw Eli in there, with his experience level and also his physicality, and that’s a good mix,” Boyle said. “Because that’s the thing Eli has that he brings, his experience and physicality, that our freshmen don’t. That’s exciting. Nobody’s talking about him and he’s kind of under the radar.”