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Five takeaways from Saturday's Buffs' basketball scrimmage

Jake Schwanitz Avatar
October 17, 2022

Before Buffs’ football won their first game of the season on Saturday, head coach Tad Boyle and the men’s basketball team took the court for an intrasquad scrimmage.

Buffs’ basketball is still very much in pre-season mode as many players struggled to consistently hit shots Saturday morning.

While there were no recorded stats from the scrimmage, here are five takeaways from the first glimpses of game action from the 2022-2023 men’s basketball team.

This year’s team is deeper than last year’s says Boyle

Saturday’s scrimmage split this year’s team into two teams, one in silver jerseys and the other in black. At least 12 players saw action as multiple players played on both teams.

The projected starting lineup took the floor for the silver squad in the second half with Luke O’Brien, Julian Hammond III, KJ Simpson, Tristan Da Silva and Lawson Lovering.

Boyle was non-committal when it came to confirming that starting lineup.

“I don’t know if they are starters yet, we will see,” Boyle said. “It’s too early to start talking about starting lineups. With the depth on this team, we can have multiple guys starting and running together.”

Javon Ruffin’s freshman season was derailed by injuries and the CU Events Center went quiet for a short period as the redshirt freshman turned his ankle and left the floor during Saturday’s scrimmage.

Despite the scare, Ruffin should be okay said Boyle.

“Until he tweaked his ankle, [Ruffin] was playing really well,” Boyle said.

Boyle also mentioned walk-on freshman Harrison Carrington as a player that impressed the 13th-year head coach.

No one plays with more speed and energy than KJ Simpson

KJ Simpson was effective in flashes and showed his potential down the stretch for the Buffs toward the end of last season. This pre-season, Simpson has continued to show that potential and played with tremendous energy on both sides of the floor on Saturday.

Simpson was one of the Colorado players that struggled to find consistency in his shot during the scrimmage.

However, his handles and ball control were on display early and often which allowed him to run the offense and find players for open shots.

The 6-foot-2 sophomore guard did have a handful of turnovers though, an area that Buffs’ fans and Boyle are hoping Simpson improves in for 2022-2023. Simpson created a turnover for his team in the first half with a chase-down steal on Julain Hammond III that lead to a fast break for the black squad.

Defensively, Simpson was relentless and had some good battles with Hammond III playing on the black squad before joining Simpson on the silver squad in the second half.

“This year, those guys are going to play together so that was by design,” Boyle said. “This is a team that’s going to have multiple combinations.”

One of the flashier plays of the scrimmage happened when Hammond was guarding Simpson. Simpson attacked the rim for a beautiful spinning lay-up against Hammond III.

Hammond III impressed on both ends of the floor as he played with great energy and effort. He had a sweet drive and right-hand lay-up to start the second half for the silver squad.

Nique Clifford was in mid-season form

The most impressive player on the floor on Saturday was Nique Clifford. Clifford seemed comfortable in all phases of the game.

The 6-foot-6 guard was not afraid to get involved around the basket as he was attacking the rim with strength and agility.

Entering his third season for the Buffs’, Clifford showed off his ability to finish at the rim with both hands and had a commanding dunk as the second half of the scrimmage came to a close.

He was all over the floor making cuts to the hole and finding space on the perimeter. KJ Simpson found Clifford on a pass early in the second half that ended in a pure catch-and-shoot three-pointer.

Jalen Gabbidon is transitioning well from the Ivy League to the PAC-12

While Clifford has the early lead to be the most impactful player for the Buffs this season, keep an eye out for Jalen Gabbidon as he seemed to fit right into his new team after transferring from Yale.

Gabbidon also struggled to find the bottom of the net on many of his shots but his confidence was unwavering as he continued to put up shots from mid-range and outside the perimeter.

Eventually, some of those threes and long two-point shots began to fall in the second half for Gabbidon and the black squad.

The most important aspect that could be taken away from Gabbidon’s performance is how smart of a basketball player he is. The graduate transfer routinely found space and was cutting to the basket well which resulted in multiple exciting finishes under the rim.

Gabbidon’s scrimmage highlight was a near coast-to-coast drive that showcased his ability to handle the ball up the floor and ended with a superb spinning finish.

“One thing about Jalen, you talk about putting foul pressure on, he attacks,” Boyle said. “He’s one of those guys where things are going to happen when he’s in the game because he’s in attack mode. He’ll be a big, big asset for us.”

Gabbidon’s roommate and fellow Ivy League transfer via Princeton, Ethan Wright, also had some rust to shake off as he struggled to hit shots early.

Regardless, Wright played with great hustle and began to find his stroke and hit a three-pointer as the scrimmage winded down.

Boyle also spoke about how Wright is fitting into this year’s team.

“As time goes on, he’s going to get more comfortable,” Boyle said. “ I think can be a knockdown shooter for us. I’m not going to put him in Levi Knutson’s category yet, but I think he can be that kind of guy that comes in the game and puts pressure on the defense.”

Boyle wants to see Lawson Lovering more involved

It was a quiet day for Lawson Lovering even though he played on both the silver and black teams on Saturday.

As the team begins to find its groove throughout the pre-season and into the early parts of the season, Boyle wants Lovering to be more involved.

Lovering is the only seven-footer listed on Colorado’s roster and should be one of the players that help make up for Jabari Walker’s production as a rebounder.

“We need to use him more offensively,” Boyle said. “I was a little disappointed in both teams that he was on for not looking at him more in the post or on rolls.”

Boyle continued on about Lovering saying that he has the ability to be a weapon for the Buffs.

“When Lawson touches the ball, good things happen for our team and our players need to start understanding that,” Boyle said. “Right now, I don’t think they do. The coaches do but we need our players to understand. We need to play through Lawson more than we did today.”

Look for Lovering to have more of an impact on both sides of the floor when Colorado welcomes the Nebraska Cornhuskers to Boulder for a charity exhibition on October 30th. Ticket proceeds from that exhibition will benefit the Boulder County Wildfire Fund.

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