When Jabari Walker’s dunk attempt ended in a thunderous shower of shattered glass, Colorado men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle was as stunned and surprised as any of his players.
From his playing days at Kansas through a collegiate coaching career that began in 1994, Boyle had never before witnessed the sort of spectacle Walker performed in Costa Rica by completely destroying a glass backboard.
Once he ascertained Walker was unharmed, Boyle’s next impulse was to be somewhat disappointed by the unfortunate circumstance. Boyle immediately was certain the remaining 12-plus minutes of the game wouldn’t be played and that contest — the third of CU’s four exhibition games earlier this month — was offering the Buffs their best challenge of what otherwise was an uncompetitive trip.
CU finished their four-game stand the day after Walker’s destruction, leaving Boyle to sort through the shards of his team’s effort. On the bright side, three members of the Buffs’ vaunted freshman class — KJ Simpson, Julian Hammond, and Lawson Lovering — got their feet wet while showing signs they might contribute immediately. On the other hand, when a 47-point margin counts as the most competitive exercise among the other three games, all progress must be assessed with heavy doses of grains of salt.
“We’ve got some talented young guys, obviously,” Boyle said. “I thought getting a chance to look at KJ, Julian, and Lawson gave us a good indication of the fact that they’re all going to be able to help us in spots at times this year. Obviously we didn’t find anything out about Quincy (Allen) or Javon (Ruffin), but the other thing is we got a good look at Luke O’Brien and Nique Clifford. I think they both showed glimpses of the opportunity to help this team this year in a more significant way.”
Allen (hip) and Ruffin (knee) were unable to play due to injuries, though both are expected to be ready when the Buffs open preseason practice in about five weeks. Boyle also gave his two seniors, Eli Parquet and Evan Battey, two games on the sideline to give more minutes to the youngsters.
As a team, the Buffs shot .543 overall with a 40-for-103 mark (.388) on 3-pointers. Simpson (23-for-37), Hammond (20-for-35) and Lovering (13-for-25) all shot above 50 percent.
“The competition was not very good. There’s no way around that,” Boyle said. “You’ve still got to make shots. The rebounding is one thing. The competition for loose balls on the glass is going to be much higher as we continue to play. But if you get an open shot in Costa Rica, or you get an open shot in Boulder or Los Angeles, you’ve still got to be able make it. So the open shots, whether you make them or don’t make them, that is not competition based. For example, KJ was able to make some plays, and his anticipation and skills defensively really stood out.
“Nique Clifford, he definitely went to the boards well. He didn’t have as much resistance because of the size and athleticism of the players he’s going against, but still he went to the boards and got them. They all did some nice things.”