The race for a spot in the starting lineup, as well as the playing rotation, has surpassed the preseason halfway point for the Colorado men’s basketball team.
With the first of two preseason exhibition games less than two weeks away, the Buffaloes took another step toward solidifying the 2021-22 rotation on Saturday morning by hosting their annual intra-squad scrimmage at the CU Events Center.
“The teams that were at the top the scoreboard seemed to be getting the ball in the paint, and they got to the free throw line,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “The teams that didn’t have success were settling for jump shots and weren’t putting a lot of foul pressure on the other team, and not getting the ball in the paint. Offensively, we’ve got to learn from that.
“This is an opportunity to get a lot of film in the can, so to speak, and we can evaluate it and analyze it and help get our young guys up to speed. Because we’re going to have to play some young, inexperienced guys, there’s no doubt about it.”
The Buffs played two 20-minute halves on Saturday morning with liberal substitutions and even a few players switching sides mid-game.
However, the starting combinations in each half remained relatively intact, with the Black Team opening with Evan Battey, Tristan da Silva, Nique Clifford, KJ Simpson, and Keeshawn Barthelemy against the White Team starters of Lawson Lovering, Julian Hammond, Luke O’Brien, Jabari Walker, and Elijah Parquet.
To start the second half, the Black Team was comprised of Battey, da Silva, Walker, Parquet and Barthelemy with all four of the active freshmen starting for the White Team — Simpson, Hammond, Lovering, and Javon Ruffin, along with O’Brien.
“I want to keep an open mind with everybody, so the play has to dictate the playing time,” Boyle said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that are capable. They’re telling me who can make shots. They’re telling me who can guard. They’re telling me who can rebound. They’re telling me who can pass the ball and take care of the ball. I’m not going to tell them, they’re going to tell me. Practices are for that, and then the scrimmage…we’ll get a better feel after (Saturday), I think.”
Barring something unexpected and unfortunate, Battey is set to join exclusive territory before the holidays.
The senior forward will enter the season with 899 career points, needing just 101 more to become the 38th 1,000-point scorer in program history. By reaching that milestone, Battey also will add another impressive achievement to the historical ledger of the 2017 recruiting class.
Three players from the 2017 class already have eclipsed the 1,000-point mark in former point guard McKinley Wright IV, Tyler Bey, and D’Shawn Schwartz, who reached that milestone during the NCAA Tournament win against Georgetown in March.
No recruiting class in CU men’s basketball history has featured three 1,000-point scorers. If, or when, Battey joins that club, it will set the bar incredibly high for a current freshman class that has the potential to make a run at that mark.
“It’s going to be a good night when it happens, but more so for our past guys that already left,” Battey said. “It just speaks to the level of commitment we had from day one being in this program. Level of commitment, level of trust we had in our teammates. Those guys — McKinley, D’Shawn, Tyler — are pretty hard working dudes. It’s all the work that we put in to reach this point. It speaks to our teammates too. We’re nothing without our teammates, and I’m blessed to have the best ones.”
The Buffs are scheduled to be off on Sunday and Monday, and on Tuesday CU will host its media day for the men’s and women’s basketball programs…Simpson provided one of the scrimmage’s top individual highlights just moments after the opening tipoff, recording a midcourt steal and executing a spin move in transition before finishing the play with an athletic layup.