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How KJ Simpson is following Evan Battey's lead to become the mayor of Boulder

Will Darkey Avatar
February 5, 2023

When Evan Battey finished up his final season last March, not only were the Buffs losing their second-leading scorer on the team; they were losing the heartbeat of the program.

Evan Battey – the mayor of Boulder – embodied everything that it meant to be a CU Buff. Embraced not only by every single one of his teammates, but he was beloved by every student and alumni that dawned the black and gold. His shoes were going to be massive to fill, but that was a challenge worth tackling for sophomore guard KJ Simpson.

The 6-foot-2 guard from West Hills, California jumped right into the driver’s seat as the energizing leader, pumping up the home crowd and high-fiving every courtside fan after the Buffs’ season-opening win over UC Riverside.

From that first game on, Simpson has been there to flex toward the student section after every clutch shot and lift up the chins of teammates that made a mistake. He’s taken on the mayor of Boulder role and is already beginning to conquer it like his former teammate once did.

“Ev did so much for the team and that’s something I admired about him,” said Simpson. “So with him leaving, I had a conversation with [Coach Boyle] and I just knew that we needed somebody to replace that.”

The Buffs’ new star talked with Battey about leadership, as well as taking mental notes while under the mayor last season to prepare himself for this larger leadership role this year.

“Being under [Battey’s] wing and seeing game after game how he acknowledged the crowd and the team, I was able to absorb that knowledge,” said Simpson. “I asked him a lot of questions, like, ‘How can I be a better teammate?’ and, ‘How can I keep us together after a tough loss?’”

This jump into a leadership role has undoubtedly improved Simpson’s numbers on the stat sheet. The sophomore guard is averaging 16 points per game this season – a nine-point jump from his freshman ppg average.

Simpson is the first CU guard to average at least 15 points per game since McKinley Wright IV did in his senior season.

McKinley paid a visit to Colorado’s practice earlier this season when the Buffs were in Southern California. The sophomore got to pick Wright IV’s brain as well.

“McKinley gave me [and the team] some tips and some leadership advice,” said Simpson. “He’s really cool. I reach out to him and he reaches out a lot too.”

On top of Wright IV’s mentorship, Simpson also spoke on the impact that former teammates Keeshawn Barthelemy and Elijah Parquet had on him.

“Keehsawn was nothing but positive,” said Simpson. “I feel like I was able to learn a lot from him. I always asked him [and Parquet] questions.”

The young guard has already garnered ample respect from his teammates, coaching staff, and fanbase thanks to the advice he’s received from some of the best-to-ever rep CU.

The going hasn’t been easy either. The team, as well as Simpson, has faced multiple setbacks throughout the course of the season. He dealt with ankle injuries as well as an illness that had held him out of multiple conference games.

The team won those few games without their sophomore standout, but for KJ it has been a tough adjustment returning from those setbacks. The Buffs’ leading scorer’s shot which was seemingly inextinguishable earlier this season has been ice-cold as of late. However, these setbacks have only strengthened Simpson and pushed him to not only make himself better but make his teammates better.

“We had a similar stretch last season, but it’s just frustrating sometimes, you know, especially being a leader, you feel like you have to do more,” said Simpson. “And so I talked to Evan and asked, ‘What can I do to be better?’”

The Buffs’ star guard has been able to apply what he’s learned from Battey not only during games but during each and every practice too.

“If I do it in practice, then in games, it just becomes accustomed,” said Simpson.

The Buffs’ star guard isn’t letting this slump get the best of him or his teammates. He’s continuing to command the best from himself and his teammates as they look to right the ship in Pac-12 play.

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