As always, Alex Strating has been putting in his work in the background.
Every day at practice Strating executes the plays, mentors the wealth of youngsters on the Colorado roster, and even absorbs a few occasional bruises all in the daily effort to make the Buffaloes a little better.
CU’s fifth-year senior forward has always been a so-called glue guy for the Buffs, a dutiful worker and mega-supportive teammate whose athleticism will never be confused with those of the players head coach Tad Boyle sends to the court every night.
Nevertheless, Strating has been an integral part of the program since arriving late in the summer in 2016. Given his lack of playing time and the fact his time at CU is likely drawing to an end, Strating finds himself savoring every practice the way his more decorated classmates, like McKinley Wright IV and D’Shawn Schwartz, might be looking forward to the Buffs’ final three home games, a run that begins Thursday night against No. 19 USC (7 p.m., ESPN2 or ESPNU).
“This season means a lot to me because it’s obviously my last season here,” Strating said. “I’ve had a really great time here. I really want to leave a legacy of teamwork and hard work behind for our younger guys to pick up on and just continue with what we’ve been building here.
“For me, the scrimmages that we do at practice, those are my versions of the games. I just try to compete in those and try to get our guys ready for the games.”
Strating never has been one of the first guys off the bench for the Buffs, but this year that scant playing time has been reduced further, particularly as freshmen Jabari Walker and Tristan da Silva have developed into dependable frontcourt contributors.
After appearing in 15 games last year and 29 during the 2018-19 season, Strating goes into the final homestand having played in just eight games this season. Over the past 10 games he has played just 10 minutes, appearing for six minutes in a home win against Arizona on Feb. 6 and logging four minutes four days later at home against Oregon State. Going back 16 games, Strating has played just 12 minutes.
“His teammates see how hard he works in practice and the sacrifices that he makes” Boyle said. “He does not get rewarded with playing time. When people, especially freshmen see that, if it doesn’t resonate with them, something’s wrong with them.
“Alex is an every day guy. He comes to work. He’s dependable. He’s a guy as a coach you really appreciate. Because you need team guys in those roles.”
Strating admitted the eligibility relief granted by the NCAA this season is “definitely something I’m considering” in terms of continuing his collegiate career either at CU or elsewhere as a graduate transfer, but that will be a decision to be mulled after the season.
When Strating arrived, the Buffs were coming off what remains their most recent NCAA Tournament appearance, though CU would have been in the 68-team field last year had the tournament not been canceled at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Strating’s selflessness was in display immediately, as he spent that 2016-17 as a redshirt walk-on before going on scholarship a year later.
If the 2020-21 season is indeed the end of his time at CU, Strating can think of no better way for it to end than to finally complete that circle with an NCAA tourney appearance.
“It will mean a lot to me if we can do it (make the NCA Tournament),” Strating said. “One of my goals coming to college was to be part of a winning team, and that’s obviously where winning happens.”