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Buffs newcomer Jalen Gabbidon was Colorado-bound regardless of hoops status

Yale transfer spent pandemic year working in Denver

Jalen Gabbidon was on his way to Colorado, regardless if college basketball remained a part of the equation.

For Gabbidon, playing one more season meant playing with the Buffaloes or no one at all.

As one of five newcomers — three transfers and two freshmen — making new acquaintances with the CU men’s basketball team this summer, and Gabbidon is the only one who has recently called Colorado his home.

The former Yale standout and one time Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year decided to make the most of his forced stint on the sideline during the 2020-21 pandemic year. After the Ivy League opted to not compete that year, Gabbidon turned his attention to a fledgling business interest.

At Yale, Gabbidon helped develop a Launchpad app designed to help young athletes design workout routines tailored to improving their particular athletic goals. While in athletic limbo during that year, Gabbidon connected with a Yale basketball alum who owned a company in Colorado that offered to help Gabbidon develop and launch the product.

And so, well before he joined the Buffaloes, Gabbidon spent nearly an entire year in Denver.

“I planned to live in Denver regardless of whether I played again or not,” Gabbidon said. “It was a natural fit when the opportunity arose here.”

During his time in Denver, Gabbidon often played pick-up games alongside a few local former CU basketball players like Dom Collier, Daylen Kountz and Dallas Walton. The ongoing summer workouts at CU are giving Gabbidon a chance to assimilate into the peculiar balance of his role as a player expected to bring a dose of leadership despite his status as a program newcomer.

That dynamic is being shared by the only other senior on the roster, fellow Ivy League transfer Ethan Wright. Gabbidon and Yale topped Wright and Princeton in the Ivy League title game three months ago, but Gabbidon said the pair is just now getting familiar with one another beyond being on the opposite sides of a conference rivalry.

“I think the most important thing is mental toughness and grit,” Gabbidon said. “Just being physical and being a leader by example to get other guys to make sure they’re boxing out, make sure they’re covering the rotation, make sure they’re taking charges and things like that. That kind of mental aspect of the game, I have a lot of experience with it. I’ve had an opportunity to play on a lot of winning teams. To bring those lessons from that stretch to the team now, there’s a lot of talent on this team. It will be special to be part of it.”

The 6-foot-5 Gabbidon projects to compete for a wing spot in the rotation behind the projected starter at the two guard, Nique Clifford. That group includes Wright, incoming freshman RJ Smith, and redshirt freshman Javon Ruffin, who is coming off an injury-plagued first year at CU.

“The things that helped me have success with the Yale program, the same things are true here,” Gabbidon said. “That’s defending, being tough physically and mentally, sharing the ball and being unselfish. Just being part of a good culture is one of the things that sold me. That’s exactly what I came from.”

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