Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The 2012 Senior Class

Time flies.  It's the final home weekend of the regular season, which means it's time to honor the latest departing senior class.

When Austin Dufault, Nate Tomlinson, and Trey Eckloff showed up on campus four years ago, concepts like "title chase" and "NIT Final Four" were as alien as a proper practice facility.  Yet, at the end of their careers, they work out in a state-of-the-art gym to prepare for a run at back-to-back 20-win seasons, with high-profile trips to Maui and NYC in their back-pockets.

The three 4-year players have been at the heart of a basketball renaissance on the Front Range.  Now joined by a fourth elder statesman, senior transfer Carlon Brown, the group gets a paltry 80 minutes of basketball to say farewell to the gym they have called home.

After the jump, I'll give my thoughts on each senior, while also taking a look at what I best remember from their careers.

Austin Dufault - Kildeer, ND - 

I always got the feeling that Austin was held back by circumstance.  Forward after forward left the program, forcing Austin to play closer to the basket than I think his game was suited.  A sneaky-good shooter, with a pretty good handle for a 6-9 player, I think he would've excelled as a big 3, rather than an undersized 4/5.
I think Austin could've become a deadly wing.
For most of his career, he received a master class in post play, guarding some of the best big men in the country.  Sure enough, Austin now boasts a whole compliment of interior moves that were non-existent four years ago.  Through all of it, he's been a constant presence in the starting lineup.

He took a small step backwards in production last year, as the big-4 dominated the stat-sheet.  Now, in his senior year, he's back to being a solid contributor for the Black-and-Gold. 

When his career ends, he'll be a 1,000 point scorer, a top-20 rebounder, and near the top in program history for starts, games played, and minutes played.  Pretty good for the small town kid.

Best remembered for - Making life hell for defenders as a trailer on the break; the tiny size of his hometown.

Best aspect of his game - 15-foot jumper

Best Game as a Buff - 11/30/11 @ CSU - Yes, this was a loss, but Austin almost single-handily made it a win.  Nailing a pair of 3s when the game was all but out of reach brought the Buffs back from the brink.  While CU would eventually fall to little brother, Austin showed the Heart of a Buffalo that night in Fort Collins.

Nate Tomlinson - Sydney, Australia -

If you don't like Nate Tomlinson handling the ball for the Buffs, you've lost the script.  Does he make some weird mistakes, often at crippling times?  Sure, but there's no one I enjoy watching work through some bullshit more than the feisty Australian.
Nate made the Buffs better when he was on the court.
In terms of fan discussion, he's probably the most polemical player since David Harrison, with camps both pro- and anti-Nate set in their opinions.  At this point, I'm decidedly pro-Nate, and have given up trying to convince his detractors of his quality.  If, after nearly four years of play, you can't see that the team is better with him on the court, then you're a lost cause.

He's top-10 in the program in assist-to-turnover ratio, will be top-5 in all-time assists, and should be top-15 in steals.   When he's at his best, the Buffs follow.

Best remembered for - Causing fights between Buff fans over his legacy; receiving a technical foul after getting the call; tattoos.

Best aspect of his game - Making other players look good.

Best Game as a Buff - 2/26/11 vs Texas - The definitive Nate performance.  While only providing 3/3/3, Nate played great second half defense, and pulled the strings perfectly as CU stunned UT with a overwhelming second-half burst.  His relative +/- for the UT game was 32; nuff said.  His '09 performance against 'Zona in Maui is also notable.

Trey Eckloff - Englewood, CO - 

It may surprise you, but there was a time that Trey saw regular minutes off the bench.  His freshman season, he was the primary forward option off the bench, and saw double-digit minutes in 11 games that year.  In later seasons, however, the local product would fall out of favor, losing minutes to more promising forwards.
He may have never gotten all that much run, but Trey was ready to battle when called.
Still, I can't help but think of the times when a desperate coach, with starters dealing with foul trouble, would look down the bench, find Trey, and watch him battle his way through high pressure minutes against some of the best forwards in the nation.  When given the chance, he showed no fear and played hard; that's as much as any fan can ask.

Best remembered for - Playing the role of the human victory cigar for the majority of his career; solid GPA.

Best aspect of his game - The straight-away 22-footer

Best Game as a Buff - 2/7/09 game @ #2 Oklahoma - Trey played 15 minutes against some guy named Blake Griffin, and dropped seven points on the future NBA phenom as CU almost pulled the upset.  I had to think about this one.  Trey had a few meaningful spurts against Cole Aldrich and KU in close losses, but this stands as his career-high scoring output, so it gets the nod.

Carlon Brown - Riverside, CA -

Carlon, we hardly knew you.  With the impending departure of Cory Higgins, and possibly even Alec Burks, Coach Boyle welcomed the transfer from Utah with open arms prior to last season.  After watching the magical '10-'11 season from the bench, he finally got the chance to show his skills in this, his final year of eligibility.
It's a shame Buff Nation only gets to watch Carlon for one season.
Deadly on the break, Carlon is the definition of high-flyer, and is capable of some moments of pure magic at the rim.

While his play has fallen off recently, Carlon is still a vital cog to the shocking run this year's team has put together.  I shudder to think of where the team would be without his 12 points/game this season.

Best remembered for - Being the one-and-done bridge between the Higgins/Burks years and the promising future; chin-strap beard.

Best aspect of his game - Aerial acrobatics.

Best Game as a Buff - 1/7/12 vs Washington St - By far his most impressive stat line, he carried CU that night by providing 28/7.  Following that game, CU was riding a 3-0 start to conference play for the second consecutive season, and stood alone in first place of the Pac-12.


Thanks to all the seniors!  Good luck down the stretch!

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