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Keeshawn Barthelemy honing shot selection for CU Buffs men’s basketball

‘Wired to score’ guard still learning nuances at point spot

BOULDER, CO - October 19, 2021: Keeshawn Barthelemy talks to reporters during the University of Colorado Boulder's men's basketball media day. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
BOULDER, CO – October 19, 2021: Keeshawn Barthelemy talks to reporters during the University of Colorado Boulder’s men’s basketball media day. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Head coach Tad Boyle says Keeshawn Barthelemy is “wired to score.”

That, of course, is an asset for any young basketball player. However, Barthelemy is in the midst of attempting to cement his role as Colorado’s primary point guard. That means there are times when that instinct to score has to be curtailed in order to find the teammate with the best shot opportunity on any given possession.

It’s a dynamic Barthelemy admits still is a work in progress. While Barthelemy struggled from the field during CU’s two preseason exhibition games, the turnover rate was low for the redshirt sophomore. As the Buffs hone in on Tuesday’s regular season opener at home against Montana State (8 p.m., Pac-12 Mountain), the presumptive starter at the point is focused on improving his shot selection.

“I have to get better at shot selection. That’s number one for me,” Barthelemy said. “I work on my game every morning before practice. I get a lot of reps in. I can shoot the ball. I know that. I’m confident enough. It’s just about taking the good ones. When I take bad ones I put my team in a bad situation. I put myself in a bad situation. I haven’t done that very well.

“Taking care of the ball, I wouldn’t say it’s been an issue. I didn’t have one (turnover) against Nebraska. But making plays for my teammates, getting them involved, I think I’ve got to get better at that, being a real point guard.”

Barthelemy topped the Buffs in shot attempts during the two exhibition games — he took 23 shots, followed by KJ Simpson with 22 — but didn’t heat up in either contest. In a win against Colorado Mines last week, Barthelemy went 4-for-11 with a 1-for-5 showing on 3-pointers. During the loss Sunday at Nebraska, Barthelemy went 3-for-12 and missed all three of his long-range chances.

“I’m still learning. I’m learning every day,” Barthelemy said. “I’ve just got to know when it’s a time to score, and when it’s time to facilitate and get others involved. I’m still learning that a little bit.”

The biggest bright spot from Barthelemy’s exhibition performances was that he committed just one turnover in nearly 45 minutes. He also recorded only four assists, posting three against Mines and just one against Nebraska on a tough day overall for the Buffs’ offense. After posting an encouraging assist-to-turnover rate of 1.91 last year in limited minutes as the backup to McKinley Wright IV, Boyle and the Buffs remain confident Barthelemy can at least duplicate that figure in a bigger role this season.

“Keeshawn’s shot selection has been questionable, at best,” Boyle said. “He’s taken a lot of bad shots, and that’s why he’s struggled shooting. Keeshawn is wired to score. He’s got a scorer’s mentality, and that’s OK. But he’s got to be able to think like a point guard, and not just play like a scoring guard.

“Keeshawn’s decision-making  —  when to open shoot it, when do we need to get Evan (Battey) a post touch or Lawson (Lovering) a post touch, or get Jabari (Walker) or Tristan (da Silva) a shot — he’s got to think in those terms.”

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