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Keeshawn Barthelemy leaving CU Buffs men’s basketball via transfer portal

Jabari Walker exploring pro options; rest of underclassmen set to return

BOULDER, CO, February 26, 2022:  University of Colorado Boulder's Keeshawn Barthelemy drives on Arizona's Justin Kier during the Pac-12 game in Boulder on February 26, 2022. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
BOULDER, CO, February 26, 2022: University of Colorado Boulder’s Keeshawn Barthelemy drives on Arizona’s Justin Kier during the Pac-12 game in Boulder on February 26, 2022. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

By the new standards of the transfer portal era, the sudden gap on the Colorado men’s basketball roster is relatively small.

Yet it’s nonetheless a significant loss of production the Buffaloes will be tasked with replacing.

On Tuesday, head coach Tad Boyle confirmed third-year sophomore guard Keeshawn Barthelemy has entered the transfer portal with the expectation of continuing his college career elsewhere. Graduating senior Elijah Parquet also made official a decision first reported by BuffZone in February by entering the transfer portal to spend his extra COVID season elsewhere.

Yet beyond Jabari Walker exploring his pro options while maintaining his eligibility, Boyle said he expects the remaining cast of underclassmen — KJ Simpson, Julian Hammond III, Tristan da Silva, Nique Clifford and Luke O’Brien, plus injured rookies Lawson Lovering, Quincy Allen and Javon Ruffin — to return for the 2022-23 season.

“I met with Keeshawn both before spring break (last week) and then after spring break,” Boyle said. “We’ve got one guy to replace. But everybody else has both feet in and we’re moving forward with the offseason programs.”

Barthelemy was the Buffs’ third-leading scorer, averaging 11.1 points in 33 games. Barthelemy started the first 28 of those games before Hammond took over the starting spot over the final five games.

Barthelemy originally arrived at CU as a late recruit out of Montreal just before the start of the 2019-20 school year. He redshirted that season while biding his time behind former point guard McKinley Wright IV and backed up Wright during the ’20-21 season, averaging 3.7 points and 1.4 assists in limited minutes. Barthelemy enjoyed one of his biggest clutch performances during his CU career late in that season, going 3-for-4 while pinch-hitting for a briefly-injured Wright during a win against USC in the Pac-12 Conference semifinals.

Barthelemy took over a starting role this past season and posted several impressive scoring performances, recording a total of 63 points in CU’s three season-opening wins against Montana State, New Mexico and Maine. He went 9-for-9 at the free throw line with 19 points in a Jan. 25 win at Oregon, and his 15 points off the bench — in his first reserve role of the season — were critical in the Buffs’ Feb. 26 win against No. 2 Arizona.

On a Buffs team that struggled with turnovers through much of the season, Barthelemy’s low turnover rate (1.33 per game) was a blessing, but his offense often ran hot-and-cold to extremes. Barthelemy struggled in two home losses against ranked foes where his production might have made a difference (2-for-13 against No. 13 Tennessee; 3-for-11 against No. 16 USC), and despite his role as the starting point guard, Barthelemy averaged just 2.4 assists per game. He recorded his season-high of five assists in a season-opening, overtime win against Montana State. Barthelemy shot .420 overall and .347 on 3-pointers.

Regardless of how Boyle opts to replace Barthelemy’s spot on the roster, the point guard spot appears to be in capable hands, with room to grow, with Simpson and Hammond set to return. While Simpson struggled from 3-point range (.254) he showed flashes of an explosive ability to get to the rim and averaged a team-leading 2.7 assists. Hammond, the former Cherry Creek quarterback, exuded a calm-in-the-pocket demeanor when tasked with the late starting nod, and he shot a solid .415 in 3-pointers (17-for-41).

“KJ is going to be a terrific player at Colorado, as is Julian,” Boyle said. “Keeshawn, he was a guy who could really score the ball. As the year went on, we knew he had that capability. One of my conversations with him was that I wanted to make him more of a scorer. Not less of a point guard, but just more of a scorer. Especially with Evan (Battey) leaving and Jabari possibly moving on. Keeshawn would be in position to take on more of that scoring role. Although, as I look back on the numbers, he scored for us this year more as a volume shooter.

“One of the things I talked to him about is if he does come back, the efficiency has to get better. But my whole thing with players — I’ve mentioned it before and I say it to players — whatever is best for them at the end of the season is what they need to do. I want guys who have both feet in with Colorado basketball, and want to win, and can put the team first. I think with the returning players, we have just that. In the scheme of things, to lose one guy in today’s age in the transfer portal, it’s not that bad.”