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Eli Parquet needs defense, improved shooting to boost CU men’s basketball rotation

Junior guard hopes for similar improvement he flashed a year ago

BOULDER, CO – October 21, 2020: Colorado’s Eli Parquet during men’s basketball practice. (Courtesy photo/University of Colorado)
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Last year, Eli Parquet entered his second season with the Colorado men’s basketball team still refining the offseason excavation project he used to revamp the technique on his jump shot.

That work paid dividends as Parquet made significant improvements in his shooting percentages compared to his freshman year. One year removed from that fundamental overhaul, Parquet is hoping to make a similar jump, and become a more consistent offensive threat, as a junior.

Still, in a similar guard competition Parquet experienced last season, though with new faces, the work that will set Parquet apart from the competition likely will come from the other end of the floor. Through his first two seasons, Parquet has displayed both the intriguing flashes and bouts of inconsistencies typical of young players. Meeting his defensive potential likely will dictate his playing time as much, if not more, than his shooting touch.

“I’ve been working hard pretty much all summer, all offseason, on my jump shot,” Parquet said. “I’ve been trying to focus in on that. I’m already focusing in on the defensive side. That’s my strength, and I’m trying to help the team on the offensive end, too.”

Parquet weathered a full-circle sort of season last year, getting a shot at the starting lineup in December only to fall out of the rotation completely early in the Pac-12 Conference schedule. But Parquet finished strong. Sparked by a memorable showing off the bench in a win at USC — Parquet collected five points, a career-high five rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one blocked shot in 27 very active minutes — Parquet again became a fixture in the rotation down the stretch and played a career-high 36 minutes in the regular season finale at Utah.

Parquet battled for playing time throughout the season at the two-guard spot with then-senior Shane Gatling and Daylen Kountz, who has since transferred to Northern Colorado. While those two guards are gone, Parquet likely is facing a similar competition with redshirt freshman Keeshawn Barthelemy and true freshman Nique Clifford. Given Clifford’s inexperience and Barthelemy’s likely duties running the point behind, and sometimes alongside, McKinley Wright IV, head coach Tad Boyle again is urging Parquet to turn up the defensive intensity.

“Looking at our stats in practice, and the way he’s shooting the ball, he is shooting it in a position where we want him to take open shots,” Boyle said. “And he’s capable now of making open shots. I believe that. A lot of that has to do with his reps and his confidence level.

“What I want Eli to really, really, dial-in to, is what this team needs on the perimeter is, we’ve got McKinley Wright who I consider a defensive stopper. We need a second defensive stopper. Is that going to be Keeshawn? Is that going to be Eli? Is that going to be one of the younger guys? Is it going to be D’Shawn (Schwartz)? Maddox (Daniels)? But I think Eli has that ability to be that lockdown defender and a guy that can make open shots and can make a play off the bounce. We know how athletic he is. But defensively, he can be a game-changer if he chooses to be.”

With Tyler Bey getting ready for the NBA draft, only the 6-foot-8 Evan Battey has posted more blocked shots (23) over the past two seasons than Parquet (19) among current Buffs, and Parquet has done his defensive damage in far more limited minutes. Parquet shot .385 last season, up from .268 as a freshman, and he improved his 3-point mark from .238 as a freshman (5-for-21) to .325 last year.  He looks to make a similar improvement this season but admits on occasion he has to focus to keep his old habits from resurfacing.

“I’ve just got to keep it tight,” Parquet said. “Every now and then it’s natural that I go back to my old (shooting) habits, kind of.  But I’ve just got to keep it tight and keep repping it out. But it’s mainly about confidence. When we start going live, five-on-five, it’s just about catching it and making open shots when I’m open.”