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CU Buffs men’s basketball notes: Rotation questions likely to linger through preseason

Jabari Walker looks to make mark on the glass

BOULDER, CO - Sept. 28, 2021: ...
CU MBB assistant coach, Mike Rohn, right, talks to Jabari Walker, during University of Colorado Boulder men’s basketball practice on September 28, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

The Colorado men’s basketball team is shaping up to be a deep squad. And given the bulk of the roster is lean on experience, head coach Tad Boyle wants to get all 11 healthy scholarship players ready to go.

With the first of the Buffaloes’ two exhibition games closing in with Wednesday’s home date against Colorado Mines, Boyle said he is no closer to honing in on a rotation, let alone a starting five, than he was when the Buffs began preseason practice almost four weeks ago.

That is by design.

Although seniors Evan Battey and Elijah Parquet, along with sophomore forward Jabari Walker, are as good as locks to see their name in the starting lineup when the Nov. 9 opener against Montana State finally rolls around, the remainder of the rotation might remain up for grabs even into the first few games of the season.

The Buffs entered the year working with only 12 scholarship players after the sudden midsummer defection of transfer guard Mason Faulkner. CU also lost freshman Quincy Allen for the season due to a hip injury, and Boyle says he and his staff still are cognizant of the wrinkle any case of COVID could throw into their rotation plans.

“I feel like this team is going to be deep. I feel like we’re still in the world of COVID. If one of our guys comes down with COVID, he’s going to be out 10 days,” Boyle said. “We’ve got to prepare everybody as if they’re going to play 30 minutes a game. Because we may be in that situation. We’re young. We’re going to be in foul trouble. So we’re going to have to play with the combinations.

“I’m not honing in on a rotation or combination right now. November ninth is still a ways away. We’re going to have to be flexible as the year goes on for those reasons. A guy you think is going to be in the rotation might be out for a while. And you’ve always got the injury factor, which is always the case in college basketball. We have to prepare all 11 scholarship players as if they can play heavy minutes. So right now we’re not honing in on any of that.”

Walker on the glass

The Buffs were a solid rebounding team last year, with CU mostly getting the job done on the glass with a balance of contributors instead of in support of a premier individual rebounder.

This year’s squad is shaping up to have a similar approach, though one player who could emerge as a standout rebounder is Walker. Walker has added 20 pounds to his 6-foot-9 frame over the past year, and he averaged 4.3 rebounds per game as a freshman while playing an average of just 14.2 minutes.

“I’m kind of disappointed in myself right now because I haven’t been rebounding like I really want to,” Walker said. “The focus going forward for me is going back to the offensive rebounding that I’ve been doing, defensive rebounding, and that’s just the main emphasis right now. Forget the scoring. Forget everything else. Work my way from the basics up, and then the scoring will come.

“Rebounding is definitely my emphasis going forward. I want to improve on that.”

McKinley’s moment

Boyle was just like any other Buffs basketball fan on Wednesday night as he watched former CU point guard McKinley Wright IV enjoy a memorable moment during his NBA debut. Although he went undrafted, Wright signed a two-way contract with his hometown Minnesota Timberwolves and was on the active roster on opening night.

Wright entered late in Minnesota’s 124-106 win against Houston and knocked down a 3-pointer.

“I was flipping through games that night and I kept watching that score,” Boyle said. “Obviously it was a blowout, so late in the fourth quarter I flipped back to it hoping he gets in, and he did. He knocked down that shot and it was exciting. I’m not surprised. All I can do when they leave here is hope and pray. I said before the draft that if he gets an opportunity, he’ll make the most of it. And he did.”

Former CU guard Spencer Dinwiddie had a big night Friday in just his second game with the Washington Wizards, recording 34 points, nine assists, and six rebounds in a wild 135-134 win against Indiana.

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