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CU Buffs’ Tad Boyle sees potential in new ‘undersized’ roster

Buffs’ lack of size in frontcourt could present matchup problems

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Tad Boyle’s top priority at the moment is to focus on his role as the head coach for the U.S. U18 team at the upcoming Americas Championship in Tijuana.

Colorado’s men’s basketball coach has received a prestigious honor with the invitation by USA Basketball to lead the squad, which begins play in the tournament on Monday against the Dominican Republic. Once the tournament is complete (it runs through June 12), Boyle will return to Boulder to rejoin a squad that already has reconvened on campus for summer workouts.

With the three transfers added to the roster since the season ended on March 15 — Ethan Wright (Princeton), J’Vonne Hadley (Indian Hills Community College), and Jalen Gabbidon (Yale) — it will be a new-look roster that also features two incoming freshmen in Joe Hurlburt and RJ Smith. Given the three transfers all measure between 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-6, the 2022-23 Buffs also will be a smaller team.

“In a perfect, you’d like a guy who’s 7-feet tall and runs like a deer and has great hands and can block shots,” Boyle said. “You want everything. But the most important thing is that we’re getting good basketball players. Will we be a little bit undersized at times next year? Yes we will. Without a doubt. But that’s OK. I think we’ll make up for that with skill, with toughness.”

At the outset of the spring recruiting cycle, with CU set to lose 6-foot-8 graduating forward Evan Battey and staring at the likely loss of 6-foot-9, Pac-12 leading rebounder Jabari Walker (who was measured at 6-foot-8 at the NBA combine, and who made his departure for the draft official last week), it was easy to assume the Buffs would look to replace that size in the frontcourt with the three spots available after Keeshawn Barthelemy entered the transfer portal.

That didn’t happen, as instead CU added three wing players of similar stature. The Buffs will get a boost size-wise from the 6-foot-10 Hurlburt, and CU still has the 6-foot-9 Tristan da Silva, though his skills are best utilized in a sort of point-forward role than as a back-to-the-basket post player (da Silva ranked third on the team, and first among non-guards, with 61 assists this past season). Lawson Lovering, a 7-foot-1 center, struggled early in his freshman year and missed the final 15 games due to a knee injury.

While Boyle admitted to potential size mismatches next season against his squad, the new wing players certainly fit the defense and rebounding profile preferred by Boyle and his staff. Despite his 6-foot-4 stature, Wright ranked fourth in the Ivy League this past season with 6.9 rebounds per game. Like Wright, Boyle believes the Gabbidon also plays bigger than his frame, as the former Yale guard averaged 3.6 rebounds this past season and was named the Ivy League’s Defensive Player of the Year for the 2019-20 season.

“I think we’ll have some experience, because all three of these guys that we’ve got here of late — Ethan, Jalen and J’Vonne — they all bring (experience),” Boyle said. “We’re gaining some experience because we are young. But we’ve also have some guys coming back in the junior class that has a lot of experience as well. It’s going to be a new team, but it’s a team I’m excited to coach. And we’ll have great character, guys who really care about the team and the name on the front of their jersey more than the name on the back of their jersey. In today’s world of college athletics, that I think is very refreshing.”

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