BOULDER, CO - Feb. 8, 2021: ...
BOULDER, CO – February 8, 2021: Colorado’s Keeshawn Barthelemy shoots over Oregon State’s Gianni Hunt during the Oregon State at Colorado men’s basketball game in Boulder on February 8, 2021.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

The backcourt for the Colorado men’s basketball team has drawn quite a crowd.

Head coach Tad Boyle soon will be faced with the sort of problem any coach gladly will take as he and his staff determine just how the talented glut of guards will fit into the rotation.

The graduation of three-time first team All-Pac-12 point guard McKinley Wright IV certainly leaves a void, but Boyle already has hinted at using three-guard lineups more frequently as the Buffaloes reconfigure their backcourt personnel situation.

Senior-to-be Eli Parquet is likely the only guard who eventually will go into the preseason with his role solidified after starting 31 games and earning first team All-Pac-12 defensive honors. Keeshawn Barthelemy has the inside track at assuming Wright’s role as the floor general after serving as the backup point guard last season, but after the two spring additions there will be a crowd vying for time around him.

Western Carolina transfer Mason Faulkner and new signee KJ Simpson figure to be in the mix as well, with the Buffs also welcoming combo guards Javon Ruffin and Julian Hammond among the 2021 freshman class. Colorado Springs native Nique Clifford, a true freshman last season, should be a factor in the competition, while Luke O’Brien and incoming freshman Quincy Allen will likely compete for playing time at the bigger wing spot vacated by D’Shawn Schwartz.

With the Buffs planning to take an international trip in August to either Costa Rica or Canada, Boyle said the exhibition games combined with the 10 summer practices allowed by the NCAA ahead of such trips will provide a critical opening audition for the 2021-22 rotation.

“We’ll learn a lot this summer about our team next year, about who’s ready to play and contribute and who may need a little bit time to develop,” Boyle said. “Because that’s the thing you just don’t know about freshmen is you just don’t know how quickly they’re going to acclimate to the college game. Some guys, it takes maybe a little bit longer. As we look forward to (2022) we know we’re going to lose Eli Parquet and Mason Faulkner. The guards who are in our program, if for some reason they don’t make the rotation and they aren’t playing next year, they’ll certainly have that opportunity the following year.

“I’m still trying to build this program organically from freshmen up and develop. There’s no better example than Eli Parquet. He comes in as a freshman and doesn’t play a lot. Sophomore year he kind of splits time a little bit. Then you throw him in as a junior and he’s a first team all-league defensive guy and major contributor. That’s kind of our MO a little bit.”

Inevitable boos

At some point, Simpson is going to step out on the court at the McKale Center at Arizona. Chances are, the faithful and fervent Wildcats fans will let Simpson know what they think of his decision to spurn a UA program in upheaval for the Buffs.

Simpson arrived at CU via Arizona, where he originally signed but was released from his letter of intent after the firing of coach Sean Miller. Simpson quickly fell back on CU, his runner-up choice during his original recruitment, but eventually he will have to face the UA crowd.

“I’ve had my fair share of boos before, so it won’t be my first time,” Simpson said. “I have a small circle, so just being in that circle I can block out so much that might be weighing on me. I know I have people I can lean on and depend on. For all the boos and stuff like that, it doesn’t mean nothing. I just want to get the win.”

Departing seniors Alex Strating and Aidan McQuade were among 65 CU student-athletes who posted 4.0
GPAs in the fall and/or spring semesters.