In a few weeks, Colorado will welcome what arguably is the most anticipated recruiting class in the history of the men’s basketball program.
The group will lack international flavor.
Certainly that’s not at all a knock on what coach Tad Boyle and his staff were able to achieve through strictly virtual recruiting. The five incoming freshmen — Quincy Allen, Julian Hammond, Lawson Lovering, Javon Ruffin, and KJ Simpson — comprise what ranks as the No. 10 recruiting class in the nation according to 247Sports.com, as of Friday.
While the Buffs still have German forward Tristan da Silva and Canadian guard Keeshawn Barthelemy on the roster, the oversized 2021 class will be an entirely homegrown collection. Boyle described it as more a matter of circumstance, also noting that Colorado would have been the collegiate destination for Australian guard Josh Giddey a few years ago, had he opted to play NCAA basketball. Giddey instead remained in Australia and is expected to be a first-round pick in this year’s NBA draft.
The Buffs recently featured overseas players in 2021 senior Alex Strating, from the Netherlands, and 2020 graduate Lucas Siewert from Brazil, though neither player arrived in America experiencing the sort of abrupt culture shock faced by players like da Silva, 2017 recruit Laz Nikolic, and former Belgian guard Thomas Akyazili. Siewert enjoyed a full high school career in Los Angeles, while Boulder marked the fifth continent that Strating, the son of a Dutch diplomat, called home.
At the outset of his tenure, Boyle inherited two eventual four-year international players in Australians Nate Tomlinson and Shane Harris-Tunks. But beyond that duo, the bring-them-in-from-abroad international recruits haven’t panned out, although da Silva put together a promising start to his career as a freshman this past season. Nikolic lasted one season and Akyazili two before they returned to their respective homes. Serbian forward Kenan Guzonjic spent one season at CU before transferring to Division II Barry University. Forward Jakub Dombek, from the Czech Republic, spent two seasons at CU (one as a redshirt) before transferring to Hartford.
“It’s always there. Bill Grier on our staff, he’s done a really good job with overseas recruiting,” Boyle said. “Nate obviously when he was here had a lot of connections in Australia. Not that he could be over there scouring for talent, but on the phone talking to coaches and finding out about young prospects and getting us on them. There’s a kid that’s a projected first-round draft pick this year from Australia, Josh Giddey, who was on our campus. If he was going to come to America to go to college, he was coming to Colorado. We were right there with him. But he decided to stay and play professional basketball in Australia.
“So it’s something we’re always going to be talking about and thinking about. It’s something we’ll always be involved in.”
With the NCAA’s pandemic-spurred off-campus recruiting moratorium set to finally expire at the end of May, Boyle expects to be on the road again this summer. While international trips aren’t necessarily on the docket — the Buffs tentatively are scheduled for an August exhibition tour in Costa Rica — CU’s leader is excited to embrace the slow return to normalcy on the recruiting circuit.
“It will be nice to see kids in person, for sure,” Boyle said. “The Zoom recruiting treated us well. But I think the biggest thing with recruiting, and I’ve said this before, but I think there’s a lot of pent-up demand for prospects and their families to get on college campuses. I think there’s a lot of people who would really like to get back to visiting college campuses as they prepare for their decision for where they’re going to college. It’s really difficult to make that decision without stepping foot on campus. That’s what two groups of (recruits) have had to do.”