It’s not as if Jabari Walker and Tristan da Silva didn’t log significant time together on the court last season.
Yet the duo rarely packed a one-two punch in the same game. More often, one of the freshman forwards would pick up the other while he was sidelined or buried in the rotation. Going into their second season with the Colorado men’s basketball team, that should change.
As the Buffs go through their final practices ahead of their upcoming exhibition trip through Costa Rica, one noticeable difference in the club compared to the workouts earlier this summer is the presence of da Silva, who missed the first set of practices a month ago while visiting his native Germany.
It was Walker who erupted first out of the Buffs’ 2020-21 freshman class. But when Walker was sidelined in February, da Silva took his turn with several game-changing performances off the bench. It’s those moments the 6-foot-8 da Silva is hoping to build on as he prepares for his sophomore season.
“I thought it was great. I didn’t really know what to expect,” da Silva said of his freshman season. “I’d never played in the States before, so that was a first. I came over here and adjusted pretty good. Especially because our team last year was pretty close together. They picked me up and made me feel like I was at home.”
Da Silva didn’t play in five of the first eight games last season, and he logged a total of only 29 minutes during the first 11 Pac-12 Conference games. However, when Walker went down with a foot injury that cost him six games in February, da Silva rose to the occasion.
In a home rout of Oregon State on Feb. 8 — Walker’s second game on the sideline in which starting forward Evan Battey also was slowed by an ankle injury — da Silva came through with a 6-for-6 performance, finishing with season-highs of 15 points and four rebounds (da Silva matched that rebounding total two more times down the stretch). Da Silva went 3-for-5 in each of the next two games, and he also went 3-for-3 in a home win against eventual Final Four qualifier UCLA.
Although da Silva’s minutes were squeezed once Walker returned, head coach Tad Boyle wants to see those types of performances more frequently in 2021-22.
“I want Tristan to be aggressive,” Boyle said. “He’s such a good student of the game. He understands concepts. He’s a guy you don’t have to explain a lot to. Or if you do, you say it once and he kind of understands it. My thing with Tristan is I just want him to be aggressive. Offensively, defensively, and rebounding the ball. Rebounding is something we really want to challenge him with.”
Da Silva finished his freshman year with a .529 field goal percentage, including a .571 mark in Pac-12 play. Walker and da Silva probably are most naturally suited for the four spot, but their versatility at both ends of the floor might allow Boyle to play them together more frequently next season.
“I think defensively I’ve got to get a little stronger in the weight room to hold guys back and be physical on the court,” da Silva said. “The game here is way more physical than in Europe, especially at this stage. People in my age range are way more physical than back in Europe. I’ve been going at in the weight room, and offensively I’m just trying to get better at every aspect of the game.”