Rooney: CU Buffs 3 extra points (April 15, 2024)

Rooney: CU Buffs 3 extra points (April 15, 2024)

Pat Rooney from BuffZone talks about CU Buffs athletics, covering spring recruiting in basketball and ongoing developments in spring football.

Staff void

To keep up in the Big 12, Colorado’s basketball team needs more than just player recruitment. How Coach Tad Boyle shapes his coaching staff could be the real game-changer for long-term success.

Now that former assistant Rick Ray is off to Vanderbilt, Coach Boyle has a coaching slot to fill for the first time in four years. With the Big 12 looming, CU’s roster needs some fine-tuning. They’re on the hunt for a post player and a sharp 3-point shooter, preferably with experience. KJ Simpson’s NBA draft declaration last week leaves three open slots on the team, possibly four if freshman Cody Williams follows suit. With limited returning players, like Julian Hammond III and Javon Ruffin, CU’s aiming to secure three, maybe four, new talents to bolster their lineup.

As Boyle, along with assistants Mike Rohn and Bill Grier, work on rebuilding the team, replacing Ray is crucial for CU’s return to the Big 12. While a deep knowledge of the Big 12 isn’t a must, it’d be helpful, especially if they’ve recruited in Texas. With the conference change, focusing on Texas recruits could become more important for CU.

Taking over

During the offseason, Hammond has a chance to stand out and show what he’s made of. It’s his time to shine and make his mark

With most of the key players leaving, the CU men’s basketball team needs someone to step up, and that someone could be Hammond. He’s a junior guard from Cherry Creek, and despite some setbacks with injuries last season—a back issue and then a knee injury—he showed promise at the start of the 2023-24 season. Hammond’s got the potential to take on leadership roles, and the team’s looking to him to fill those big shoes left behind by the departing players.

The Buffs could use a boost at point guard, and having Hammond back and healthy is a big plus. He’s got plenty of experience with 88 games under his belt and shoots a solid .376 from beyond the arc. Before his last season got cut short, he was hitting threes at a .400 clip. Whether or not they snag someone new this spring, Hammond’s senior year could be key in softening the blow of moving back into a tough conference while the team adjusts.

The long haul

As I reflected on Simpson’s career for my column last week, I found myself pondering a crucial aspect of college sports I truly hope remains amidst the era of unrestricted transfers.

Seeing players like Simpson grow from nervous freshmen to confident athletes heading into pro careers is a real highlight of the game, whether you’re a fan or a reporter. It feels like just yesterday he was struggling with his shot and turnovers as a freshman after switching commitments from Arizona. But fast forward two years, and he’s putting up one of the best seasons in CU basketball history, making NBA scouts take notice through sheer determination.

It’s not only the big names like Simpson that leave an impression. I recall seeing Luke O’Brien and his Columbine crew back in high school, just after he committed to CU. Then there’s Tristan da Silva, arriving from Germany with loads of talent, navigating a whole new culture at CU, all while dealing with pandemic-related campus restrictions.

I could keep sharing stories like these all day. For me, one of the best parts of college sports is seeing these young folks grow up right in front of us during their four (or sometimes five) years on the team. Of course, players should have the freedom to move if they need to, and it can be exciting to see them find a new path. But I can’t help but wonder if the day will come when spending the whole college career with one team becomes more of a rarity than the norm.

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