As Jalen Gabbidon was being courted to use his final season of collegiate basketball with the Colorado Buffaloes, the scheduling rumor already was swirling.
Gabbidon might have been done playing for the Yale Bulldogs. But, as it turned out, he wasn’t quite done dealing with the Yale Bulldogs.
Just a few months ago, Gabbidon was helping to lead Yale to the NCAA Tournament as the Bulldogs secured the Ivy League tournament championship. Now, of course, the graduate transfer is a Buffalo who, for at least one day, will not battle torn allegiances.
Gabbidon makes no bones about hoping the unbeaten Bulldogs (6-0) win every game but one this season. Yale has won some form of the Ivy League championship for three consecutive seasons, capturing the regular season championship in 2020 and the tournament championships in 2019 and earlier this year (the Ivy League didn’t compete during the 2020-21 pandemic season).
Gabbidon is understandably proud to be part of that legacy. Just as he would be equally proud to help CU end Yale’s undefeated start when the Bulldogs visit the CU Events Center on Sunday (1 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
“I Facetime my boys all the time,” Gabbidon said. “Those are my young bulls. I’ve watched all their games, live mostly. I send them notes. They’re going for a four-peat this year. That’s a legacy for me and my class that we helped lead. I want the most success possible for them. But they won’t be getting any tips until after Sunday. When they get to Ivy play I expect them to go 14-0. 16-0 with the tournament.”
Gabbidon played in 78 games (61 starts) for Yale over three seasons, averaging 7.0 points and 3.0 rebounds. He won the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year honor for the 2019-20 season and enjoyed a career year offensively for the Bulldogs last year, posting career-high marks in scoring (11.3), rebounding (3.6), steals (44) and field goal percentage (.475), while earning second-team All-Ivy League honors.
Gabbidon spent much of the pandemic year in Colorado pursuing his business venture (he is the co-founder of a performance-enhancing fitness app called Launchpad). Because the Ivy League doesn’t permit post-graduate eligibility, Gabbidon, like fellow CU Ivy League transfer Ethan Wright, had no choice but to transfer if he wanted to use his extra season. Colorado was a natural fit, even if it meant an early-season showdown against a program still close to his heart.
“Treat it like any other game,” Gabbidon said. “I have a job to do. We all have jobs to do. We’re going to execute the best we can. The result will speak for itself. It’s not a matter of whether we win or whether we lose. We have to execute our game plan. We can’t focus on any particular game, especially for me playing my former team. I have to focus on what I have to do and doing my job.”
Gabbidon has enjoyed a productive if somewhat uneven start at CU through the Buffs’ 3-3 season. He has started three games, first against nationally-ranked Tennessee as head coach Tad Boyle shook up his rotation, and then the past two games in place of injured forward J’Vonne Hadley. Gabbidon has averaged 8.8 points with eight steals, second on the team to KJ Simpson’s 12, but is shooting .415 from the field and only .294 (5-for-17) on 3-pointers.
Gabbidon has been one of CU’s most willing defenders, but that hasn’t prevented CU’s opponents from shooting at least 51% during the first half of each of the Buffs’ three losses. Still, Gabbidon has emerged as a vocal leader, and as CU sets its sights on his former team, Gabbidon is trying to help his new club instill the sense of toughness lacking at key moments during the recently completed 2-3 road trip.
“Toughness is all mental,” Gabbidon said. “Coach has put us in positions in practice where it’s do or die, basically. You have to get it done. As you learn, it becomes habit. Practice this week is all about habits. And if you don’t, you lose. Ingraining that lesson on us has been a focus. We can’t pick and choose when to compete. It has to be all the time.”