Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday Grab Bag: Tad Boyle's European Vacation

The big news this week is two-fold.  Not only is the football program finishing up fall practice with its second full week, but the BasketBuffs are embarking on their long anticipated trip to Europe.  Apologies to the football program, but my focus is on Coach Boyle's European Vacation.

Today in the bag, I'll be talking trip details, recapping my recent visit practice, and touch on the half-way point of fall football camp.

Click below for the bag...

EuroTrip - 

It's time, the BasketBuffs are headed to Europe.  The three-stop trip kicks off with games later this week, but the team has already begun to make its journey.  A program only gets to go on one of these trips once every four years, and it couldn't have come at a better time for a program introducing six freshmen.

The itinerary starts Wednesday with EuroJam in Paris (tickets are only $6.25!).  For two games against AMW Team France, CU will be playing against a battle-hardened pro team that is capable of taking down KU.  They're no joke, and, by the time CU gets to face them, they'll be well used to playing against collegiate teams.

After Paris, the Buffs head to Belgium to play Optima Ghent and Gembo BBC Borgerhout before finishing the trip in Amsterdam playing the Rotterdam Challengers.  I know far less about both of these teams, and I get the feeling that the coaching staff is mostly in the dark as well.

In a recent press conference, Coach Boyle talked at length about the trip, and emphasized the experience of the teams CU will be playing, and the challenge that will pose:

The point of this type of trip is not wins or losses, rather it's to utilize the extra practice and game time to help your team grow.  With the massive influx on young talent on the roster (freshmen this year will take up 46% of available scholarships), this trip will serve to initiate the young kids into the program earlier than what normally would be possible.  By the time the season tips off on November 9th, the team will have already played four games against experienced competition, and been practicing for over three months.  Not a bad way for the team to grow up quickly, and for the coaching staff to find out what they have.

Unfortunately, despite the importance of this trip for the program's development, there will only be limited media coverage of the trip.  Despite my protestations, the Daily Camera is not sending a reporter along, and even the CU Athletic Department is eschewing the opportunity to send along a beat reporter to follow the action.  Combined with the prospect of no streaming coverage of the games, this could be a very quiet trip from a news standpoint.  That said, if I find any streaming information, I'll be sure to post it.

Practice observations - 

Yours truly was afforded the opportunity to attend practice Friday afternoon.  After sneaking out of work, I headed up to the practice facility at the CEC with AllBuffs members Buffnik, Rugged, and Goose.  Here's a collection of my observations.
  • Xavier Johnson is a big man, larger than I had been lead to believe, and makes a startling first impression.  Coach Embree may want to look at him for a spot on the D-line.  He drives to the hoop like a freight train, and will make for one hell of a matchup problem.  The phrase "attack the rim" has a whole new meaning with this guy.
  • Dre's handle is improved, and shows sign of significant work put in.  Finally has some competition in practice for rebounds, as Wes Gordon and Josh Scott can both challenge on the boards.  This may finally force him to learn proper box-out technique.
  • Scott is still raw.  The day I saw him, he seemed to be processing the correct positioning/movement, rather than just playing.  Reports from other days have been more promising, but Scott seemed a step behind Friday. He could also benefit from a few extra pounds.
  • Chris Jenkins can score; great outside shot from the wiry Michigander.  He should be able to contribute significant minutes right away.  Looks like a genuine steal.
  • Eli Stalzer also impressed.  Looks and plays older than he really is. He seems to have a strong grasp of how to play the point guard position, and after watching him in person, I no longer have any reservations about his scholarship offer.  He compares favorably to Xavier Talton, who will need some development time before producing.
  • Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie are definitely team leaders now, and especially Ski seems more than willing to take the younger players under his wing.  He was also seen repeatedly shooting free throws after drills.  Spencer added some muscle in the weight room, and is now able to defend larger wings like 'Dre or XJ.  He also showed some explosive moves to the rim.
  • Both Jeremy Adams and Shane Harris-Tunks sat out practice (and will be out for the trip to Europe) due to knee injuries.  In fact, Adams passed us on the way to the gym, and said he was going to get treatment.  He didn't seem too concerned, and was walking without a visible limp.
  • 2014 recruit Josh Perkins and family were in attendance.
The team has plenty of room to grow and develop before November, but that only reinforces the importance of the Europe trip, and the early rounds of practice that accompany it.

For the second straight season the team has lost the primary offensive leadership, and the team needs some work on the offensive end to replace it before the season starts. Spacing was a big problem, and some sets saw three Buffs piled up in a corner.  Execution was the buzzword for the day, but I saw more than a few bad turnovers.

Comparatively, on the defensive end, this team flat refuses to give up easy baskets.  I saw plenty of hard fouls and strong challenges to protect the rim.  If these guys are putting that much effort in against their own teammates in 4-on-4 drills and open scrimmages, I can't imagine the punishment they're going to lay into Pac-12 opponents. 

The best news is that competition amongst the team is strong, and I have no problem envisioning this team playing 10-deep.  The young talent is coming along, and the vets are only faster and stronger than they were a year ago.  If, over the next three months, the offense finds rhythm, we should end up watching another strong Tad-like season.  I can't wait to see them take the court for real.

The half-way point of fall camp - 

With one week in the bag, the crew over at @CU_Video released this awesome highlight video:

With the media black-out, that video is about as close as anyone is getting to practice.  It's a shame really, because the program could've used some excitement coming into the year.  Instead of actual news, Buff Nation is forced to chew on puff pieces.  Don't get me wrong, I dig Tony Jones' story, I just wish it was accompanied by some observation as to how he'll play this fall.

Other bits of news escaping from behind the curtain:

-So far, the team has avoided any serious injury trouble.  This already makes camp 2012 one of the more successful efforts in years. Knock-on-wood, that trend continues into September.

-Still no sign of a front-runner in the QB competition, and the coaching staff has hinted that the race could bleed into the regular season.

Happy Monday!

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