On Thursday, the Colorado men’s basketball team sprinted to the finish line.
Well, perhaps not quite the finish line, but the Buffaloes used the final practice of their first summer session to compete in an intense and demanding five-on-five scrimmage. With Mason Faulkner (ankle) and freshman Javon Ruffin (knee) sidelined by injuries, in addition to a few other excused absences like Tristan da Silva visiting family in Germany, there were no substitutions for either side during the exhausting scrimmage.
Through the first five practices of the summer, head coach Tad Boyle learned one certainty about his young roster: The Buffs have to get in much better shape before the 2021-22 season begins. Beyond that, Boyle was happy with the spirit of the newly-completed set of practices but stopped short of offering an in-depth analysis of the Buffs’ progress.
“It’s the early stages, so it’s really hard to tell,” Boyle said. “We scrimmaged (Thursday) and got up-and-down a little bit. We played 20 minutes of basketball, so half a game. Our conditioning is not where it needs to be for sure. We’ve got some really talented guys individually offensively. But what we’re trying to put together is obviously working together to get a great shot for our team. And also the defensive end.
“For new players that are here, they don’t quite understand the urgency that you need to play with on defense. It’s kind of a you let me score, I let you score mentality. We’ve got to get out of that. I love our talent level. I love our competitiveness. But we’ve got a long ways to go.”
The Buffs are set to visit Costa Rica in August for an exhibition tour, which allows for 10 summer practices. The dates for the next five practices haven’t been settled, but they are likely to be held ahead of the Aug. 12 start of the Costa Rica trip.
It is uncertain if Ruffin will be available for the next set of practices, though Faulkner is likely to remain sidelined. Da Silva will be back in Boulder by then as the new-look Buffs slowly work toward the start of the preseason.
“The guys have to get in condition,” Boyle said. “And we’ve got to understand some of the habits that need to be broken, we have to break those. I’m talking about the new guys. In (Thursday’s) scrimmage we had three veterans with two new guys on each team. I think our veterans got to hold the new guys to the standard that they expect of themselves.
“Right now it’s about these guys getting to know each other, getting a feel for each other, and they’re doing that.”
With the Costa Rica trip and a November tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands on the 2021 calendar, the Buffs already are scheduled for plenty of international travel. Senior forward Evan Battey is going to have a little more than his teammates.
Battey is set to participate in the East Coast All-Stars exhibition tour of Italy later this summer. It will be the second time Battey has competed for the group, as he also traveled to Europe in 2018 to play under coach Larry Brown.
The Costa Rica trip will be the climax of the Buffs’ off-the-court goal of building cohesion and camaraderie on a roster featuring six new players — Faulkner, Ruffin, Quincy Allen, Julian Hammond, Lawson Lovering, and KJ Simpson.
“I’m really pleased with what these guys are doing off the court, just in terms of just hanging out, building relationships,” Boyle said. “You can see guys hanging out with each other before practice. I go into the locker room in the middle of the morning, and you have guys in there hanging out, spending time together. That’s really what this month is about. We’ll have an opportunity to do that more when we come back in August.”