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Change begins: CU Buffs center Lawson Lovering reportedly headed to transfer portal

Colorado Buffaloes center Lawson Lovering reportedly is headed to the transfer portal. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
Colorado Buffaloes center Lawson Lovering reportedly is headed to the transfer portal. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

With the incoming recruiting class of 2023, Colorado men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle over-signed for the first time in his 13 seasons with the Buffaloes, expecting at least one roster defection.

That loss apparently already has happened, and it isn’t the first player most Buffs fans likely would have guessed.

According to a report published Tuesday evening by On3Sports, 7-foot-1 sophomore center Lawson Lovering has entered the transfer portal.

While Lovering’s apparent defection solves the Buffs’ most immediate numbers issue, on a team that had two true freshmen redshirting and highly regarded recruit Quincy Allen sitting on the bench, a 34-game starter who came on strong down the stretch being the first to go arrives as a gut-punch.

Lauded by Boyle throughout the Buffs’ 18-17 season for his consistent defense, Lovering struggled offensively during the first half of the season but improved as the weeks went on.

He started 34 games, missing just the Dec. 21 win against Southern Utah due to an injury and finishing the season averaging 4.9 points and 4.7 rebounds with a .554 field goal percentage. Despite his early struggles, Lovering showed improvement over the final month of the season, averaging 9.1 points and 5.3 rebounds over the final eight games.

Lovering’s final game with the Buffs arguably was his best, as he went 9-for-13 with a career-high 21 points during CU’s season-ending loss against Utah Valley in the second round of the NIT on Sunday. It was Lovering’s third double-digit scoring game of the season — he scored 10 points with five rebounds in a road win at Stanford on Dec. 29, and he recorded the first double-double of his career with 13 points and a career-high 14 rebounds in a Jan. 12 loss at USC.

Lovering finished with a dreadful .421 free throw percentage (32-for-76) but even that inched forward in recent weeks, with Lovering shooting .565 at the line (13-for-23) in the final seven games.

Frontcourt size was a shortcoming of the 2022-23 Buffs, but Lovering’s loss does not necessarily mean it will be the same story next season. The Buffs’ incoming 2023 freshman class includes long-armed, 6-foot-8 wing Cody Williams, ranked as the No. 8 prospect in the nation by 247Sports, and Denver-based, 6-foot-10 forward Assane Diop. CU also has 6-foot-11 freshman forward Joe Hurlburt waiting in the wings after redshirting this season.

Any further defections to the transfer portal will allow Boyle to do his own shopping in the portal, while also awaiting the arrival of the 2023 recruiting class — Williams, Diop, and Courtney Anderson.