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Team Colorado forced to bow out of 2021 The Basketball Tournament

Injuries, COVID matters sideline hoops alumni squad

BOULDER, CO - Jan. 2, 2020: ...
Jeremy Papasso/ Staff Photographer
BOULDER, CO – Jan. 2, 2020: University of Colorado’s Lucas Siewert takes a shot during a PAC 12 game against the University of Oregon on Thursday at the Coors Event Center on the CU campus in Boulder. (Photo by Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer)

On Monday, the 64-team bracket for the annual The Basketball Tournament was announced. Noticeably absent was Team Colorado, the squad of Colorado Buffaloes alums that has made the winner-take-all tournament a sort of annual competitive reunion.

Unfortunately for those former Buffs, the trials of the times once again are conspiring against them.

Due to a combination of a couple COVID issues among the expected roster, as well as late-season injuries for a few players competing overseas, Team Colorado general manager and former Buffs player Josh Repine said the decision was made late last week to withdraw from The Basketball Tournament.

In addition to those issues, former CU forward Lucas Siewert, who has been playing professionally in his native Brazil and planned to join Team Colorado this summer, ended up being unable to participate due to travel restrictions.

“There were about four or five that texted me that were either hurt, had some COVID-related issue, or couldn’t even get into the country,” Repine said. “All that mixed together, it was too much.”

The former Buffs declined to participate in the heavily bubbled and regulated version of The Basketball Tournament last summer, and this year’s edition once again will feature team disqualifications for just one positive COVID test.

While Repine said he still could have found enough able and willing bodies to fill a roster, the specter of possibly wasting donor money with a quick one-and-done at the $1 million TBT wasn’t a comfortable thought. One significant donor already told Team Colorado to keep the funds for next year.

“Obviously we’re donor-based, and I didn’t want to risk losing donor money. Because they’re so gracious and support us so well,” Repine said. “When it came down to it, we didn’t want to risk losing the donor money.”

Team Colorado expects to be back in action in 2022, but by then it will have been three years since the former Buffs competed at TBT and six since Team Colorado was a bad second half in the title game away from collecting the winner-take-all jackpot. On the other hand, Team Colorado hoped to boast a younger roster this summer, and next year some of Siewert’s former teammates like Dallas Walton, D’Shawn Schwartz, and even current seniors Evan Battey and Eli Parquet might be Team Colorado candidates.

“I think the energy and momentum is still there,” Repine said. “One positive test, which can be fluky, and then sending everyone home was just what scared us.”

Walker makes the cut

On Monday night, USA Basketball announced a trimming of the candidate pool for the US U19 World Cup team, and CU forward Jabari Walker survived the first cut.

Walker is one of 17 remaining players at the training camp at TCU vying for a spot on the 12-man roster, which will be announced ahead of the team’s June 28 departure for the World Cup in Latvia. Walker is one of 10 players remaining who completed their first season of college, with the other seven finalists set to begin their college careers in 2021-22. That latter group includes Patrick Baldwin Jr., who is set to visit the CU Events Center as a freshman with Milwaukee on Dec. 10.

Walker earned a spot on the Pac-12 All-Freshman team last season after averaging 7.6 points and 4.3 rebounds while shooting .526 in 26 games off the bench.