Ever so slowly, Evan Battey is getting accustomed to his new reality.
Still, the lack of familiar faces around the Colorado basketball facilities will take a little getting used to for the Buffaloes’ big man.
Battey has endured a world of ups and downs since he arrived at CU as part of a recruiting quintet that hoped to eventually turn into the Buffs’ version of the Fab Five.
Laz Nikolic, a talented and versatile guard out of Serbia, opted to return home after just one season. Tyler Bey became a second-round pick in the NBA Draft after three seasons at CU. Now the other two pieces of that class, McKinley Wright IV and D’Shawn Schwartz, are gone as well, with Wright signing recently with the management company Octagon Basketball with an eye on the NBA Draft and Schwartz opting to spend his bonus year of eligibility at George Mason.
That leaves only Battey, who redshirted during his true freshman year and has begun preparation for his senior season as the last man standing from a recruiting class whose status as the best in head coach Tad Boyle’s 11-season tenure should be challenged by the group arriving this summer.
“I’m not going to lie — it was tough the first couple days,” Battey said. “Just kind of looking around, seeing the faces and seeing my guys not there. That was a little tough for me. As time has gone on I’ve come to realize, and come back to Earth, that I’m the senior leader of this team. I’m in the shoes that McKinley was in last year. I’m trying to accept that and being more comfortable with change.
“I’ve never been good at handling change. I don’t think anyone is, honestly. But it’s a part of life.”
Despite his newfound status as the longest-tenured Buffalo, Battey’s role as a leader will not necessarily change. While Wright’s leadership role as the floor general will be missed, Battey has been one of the Buffs’ emotional sparkplugs since his arrival. However, with a rotation likely to lean heavily on the 2020-21 freshman class in addition to the five talented freshmen whose arrival is pending, Battey understands that while his enthusiasm and on-floor emotion doesn’t need to change, he perhaps will have to adjust the tone of some of his one-on-one conversations when the inevitable rookie mistakes arrive.
“It’s going to be really weird. It’s definitely a different challenge that requires different leadership,” Battey said. “It requires a different kind of focus and mentality. You have to understand that there are going to be highs and lows. It’s going to be a roller coaster. Young teams for the most part are always like that.
“I’m not saying we’re going to lose games. I just need to make sure my dudes are growing up the right way and really focusing on what they need to focus on. And more so, make sure they’re becoming great people outside of basketball as well. It’s a multi-faceted challenge for me. I don’t know how to approach it right now because not all the guys are here. I just don’t want to be overbearing. I want people to feel comfortable. I want people to feel confident in themselves. I just want to be a support system for all the people coming in and the guys here now. I don’t know what that entails fully, but I’ll see as the year goes on. I’ll feel it out and see where my leadership is needed.”