Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Attrition Files: Spencer Dinwiddie

What we've all expected for some time has come to pass.  Hizzoner the Mayor of Buffaloes, Spencer Dinwiddie, has declared his intention to forego his final year of collegiate eligibility, and enter the NBA Draft.

Before we go any farther, let me say that this is the right choice.  Even with the injury and the resulting questions, Spencer will still be drafted, probably much higher than any doubter is expecting.  With that in mind, going pro is wise.  Another year in college, burdened by expectations that would easily outpace reality, is destined to come off as a disappointment, even as successful as it would be.  If teams are telling Dinwidde they are interested, which I assume they are, then the NBA makes far more sense than another year in Boulder.

But what if the NBA increases their age limit for next year, lightening the 2015 draft class?  Doesn't matter. This isn't about money (well, it is, but... you know what I mean), this is about progression in his career. Another year in college beating up on the same people he's punked for the last three years won't help him develop past the whole 'well, he's healthy' thing.  Best to start the professional phase of his career, rather than hold out hope for a weak draft class and a little extra folding cash.  This is a long-term choice, not just one about his first paycheck.

Last year, his father doubted his son's maturity in relation to his pro prospects.  I would argue that this is now the mature choice.  It's a tough pill to swallow, going lower in the draft that you probably could/should go, but Dinwiddie is still going after his dream, rather than coming back to college with an 'I'll show you' chip on his shoulder.  He's done his time at this level, has gotten as much out of it as could be expected.  Now it's time to move on.  It's the natural progression.

Of course, that means that BuffNation is forced to say goodbye to one of the more special talents to ever grace the hardwood at the University of Colorado.  Dinwiddie is, without a doubt, the best all-around basketball player I have watched play in Black and Gold since moving to Boulder in 2002.  Alec Burks may have been a better scorer, and Andre Roberson may have been a better defender, but Spencer has the entire package. He is a stat-stuffer, an all-encompassing hardwood badass.  Over 86 games in his career, he averaged a solid 13/3/3, but his numbers always seemed to belie his importance to his team.  Whenever his squad needed a lift, there was Spencer.  When they needed a big shot, or a drive to the rim, there was Spencer. When they needed a big defensive stop, there was Spencer.  It's hard imagining the program without him over the last few years, and it will be near impossible to replace him.

I knew when Spencer committed in 2010 that Colorado was getting a good player, I just didn't realize how great this kid would become.  A wiry, probably undersized, guard from California, he was dwarfed by flashier talent in his age group. But, once on campus, he flew past his peers.  The word on him then was exactly what it would be if I were scouting him for a game tomorrow: an incredibly smart player who may not make the top-10 highlight, but has a knack of making the right play.  The kind of player you want to build around, which is exactly what Coach Boyle did.
Even in high school, the 'stache was there.  From: AllBuffs
People are quick to forget, but Dinwiddie was 'the Mayor' before even stepping on campus.  The Allbuffs crew popularized the nickname on the basketball recruiting forums for seemingly knowing everyone in AAU ball, and proving more than willing to try and sway them over to Colorado.  The name stuck once in Boulder, as it became obvious that Spencer was a star in the making, one comfortable with the spotlight that followed the success earned through victory after victory.  My first memory of Dinwiddie came when he showboated after making a three in a meaningless pre-season scrimmage in front of maybe 500 fans.  That was the kid to a 'T' - always confident and comfortable, and always eager to make sure everyone knew it.

His freshman season was one of the most successful in program history, and he played a huge roll in working with veterans like Nate Tomlinson, Austin Dufault and Carlon Brown to scratch and claw to a conference title, the program's first in over 40 years.  He performed with poise and stature that surpassed his age, and it surprised no one when he lead the team in scoring during the Pac-12 title game, going 4-for-4 from behind the arc in his hometown.

By the time his sophomore campaign rolled along, it was de facto his team.  While senior Sabatino Chen was the elder statesman and Andre Roberson was closing in on his own trip to the NBA draft, it was Dinwiddie who ran the offense, and was at the top every scouting report.  He was no longer just a budding star, he was a legitimate member of the conference elite, signified by his inclusion on the 2013 All-Pac-12 First Team.

Spencer's 2012-13 was so good that he thought of jumping pro last spring. While the public openly debated the pros and cons of Andre Roberson's draft status, Dinwiddie quietly sat behind the scenes pondering his future.  With the help of his father, he eventually decided to return for his junior season, with a plan to build up to a statement making collegiate conclusion.  He did the summer rounds, playing at Adidas Nations and the World University Games for Team USA, before headlining the media blitz headed into '13-'14.  He was no longer just a local star, he was a national curiosity.  If you wanted to sound smart about the sport, you had to know the name Spencer Dinwiddie, no matter where you were.

In true Mayor fashion, Spencer was leading the way for CU this season.  In charge of a youthful supporting cast, along with running mate Askia Booker, he was the show in Boulder, in clear command of the team from behind the scenes to the hardwood.   Headed into conference play, it seemed like a perfect culmination of his amateur career.

Then, that awful thing happened.  A season, and, now, a collegiate career cut short in a matter of seconds. It's a brutal and harsh reality.

Even in his absence in uniform, Spencer was a visible part of the program.  When College GameDay came to town, he was the player interviewed with Coach Boyle on national television.  He remains the face of the program to this day, injury and professional status be damned.

Is there a tinge of regret behind my words?  Yes, of course there is.  That fateful afternoon in Seattle deprived BuffNation and the rest of the basketball loving world of a final dose of Pac-12 play from the Mayor.  It's also a shame, much like with Andre Roberson last season, who missed his final home game due to illness, that the CEC never got a chance to send Dinwiddie out with his ears ringing.  But that's life. Sometimes goodbyes aren't what you expect.  That's what makes college ball so appealing to me.  The joy gained from watching is fleeting.  What is here today will be different tomorrow, which underscores how important it is to enjoy success at face value.
What a joy it was to watch Spencer play the last few years.
At the end of the day, I had a blast cheering for Spencer over the past three seasons.  He is not only one of the all-time CU greats, but the foundation upon which the current transformative era of CU hoops was built, and anyone who has ever cared about Colorado Basketball owes him a debt.  This program wouldn't be nearly in the condition it is today without his efforts, and for that he will always be one of my favorite Buffs.

Thank you, Spencer!  Good luck in the NBA.  We will always #CountOnTheMayor


Best remembered for - 

Kicking the shit out of CSU.  His three games against little brother speak for themselves:

2011: 16/8/1, 6-10 from the floor, leading scorer as a freshman in Moby
2012: 29/2/3, 8-10 from the floor, 5-7 from 3-pt range
2013: 28/2/4, 8-14 from the floor, 11-11 from the line

The games against the Rams may not be the biggest on the calendar, but Spencer seemed to enjoy them the most.  He lived to troll the wearers of green and gold, and, in true Mayor fashion, could back up his mouth with his play.

As an extension, I don't think a player ever enjoyed being the public face of CU athletics more than Spencer Dinwiddie.  He was a lively twitter follow, openly played with teammates, opponents and fellow students on social media, and was one of the best, most open quotes the media could turn to.  That he could walk-the-walk to back it up only increased his legend.

... also, the 'stache.

Best aspect of his game - 

His ability to get to the line.  Always one of the more efficient players in all of basketball, he was served well by his ability to draw contact and get to the line  With his 6-6 frame, Dinwiddie was able to fight through traffic and stay strong through abuse.  By the time he was a junior, he was getting the star treatment, and could buy a call from the refs almost by looking at a defender.

Best game as a Buff - 

This is a tough one, as there are a slew of reasonable options that would headline the career of almost any other player.  There's his ring-winning performance against Arizona as a freshman, his perfecto against Oregon St, his evisceration of the Wildcats, again, during the Valentine's Day Massacre, his home finale against Oregon, and the little brother game against the Rams.

In the end, however, I was swayed by another of his efforts against State. His 2013 effort against the Rams takes the cake.  On the road, in front of a frothing CSU student section that was out for his blood, Spencer single-handedly willed the Buffs to victory.  He didn't miss a free throw, didn't commit a foul, and didn't turn the ball over in 36 minutes of play, all while dumping 19 of his game-high 28 on the hapless Rams in the second half.  Dinwiddie was, at his best, a cold-blooded game-winning machine, and his effort last December 3rd against CSU was the epitome of that.


Anonymous said...

Can't fret the decision, as he is for sure an NBA talent

However, one has to believe that his pro career, at least on the outside looking in, would benefit greatly if he came back. Has nothing to do with his ability to play on the next level, as we all know he can.

It has to do with the fact that he can't even begin working out due to his knee injury, and even if he's drafted he'll probably go 2nd round where as if he's back, he probably leads a top 15 team nationally, and thus would allow himself to play himself into the first round and maybe even the lottery.

Aaron Jordan said...

If you have time and feel like it, can you breakdown how you think our season would have gone if he had not gotten injured?

Anonymous said...

Everyone's saying it's a forgone conclusion that he made the right decision. I disagree.

He'll get drafted, but it'll take awhile for him to get into the groove of things in the NBA. You only get your college years once. Only when you leave college forever do you realize how much you wish you could go back, and most college kids don't get to be a part of something magical like the Elite-8 or Final Four. I just see no reason to go play for a mediocre NBA team and have an average year when you can participate in a deep tournament run.

Good luck Spencer.

As for CU, where do we go from here? We went 9-10 without him. Is Collier really going to be that much of a lift next year? (especially as a skinny true freshman). Are Fletch, Thomas, King, Gordon and Jaron really going to improve that much? Considering the monster classes Stanford, Arizona and UCLA are bringing in I could see us taking a significant step back. (sorry to be a downer, I just can't help but think this is the wrong decision and is going to seriously hurt CU's momentum)

Anonymous said...

It's as if the first 2 anonymous comments didn't even read the article.

This is the absolute best decision Spencer could make. There is no reason for him to turn down his dream and millions of dollars to come back and prove anything further at the collegiate level. He is athletic, has an extremely high basketball IQ, and comes in a 6-6 frame that will help him transition to the NBA level much better than many people think. Best of luck to Spencer throughout his basketball career, "He is not only one of the all-time CU greats, but the foundation upon which the current transformative era of CU hoops was built, and anyone who has ever cared about Colorado Basketball owes him a debt." Go Buffs, Roll Tad.

RumblinBuff said...

Aaron - Obviously, we would've been in a better post-season position. It took the team 5 games to regain its footing, going 1-4. Do we still lose @ 'Zona? Probably, but a better showing @ UW, hove vs UCLA, or @ ASU would be enough to get the team a first round bye in vegas, maybe even the gift of not having to play 'Zona in the semi-finals.

As for the Tournament, that's always up in the air, but with the Mayor, we don't lose by 1,000 points to Pitt; no way, no how.