Colorado’s season came to a swift end after their second-round NIT loss to Utah Valley and it only took a matter of days before we saw three players enter the transfer portal and two players seek NBA Draft feedback. We are only one week into the off-season and Buffs’ roster is completely in flux.
Five-star Cody Williams is coming along with four-star Assane Diop but now head coach Tad Boyle has the ability to fully utilize the transfer portal to round out his roster.
Many questions face Colorado basketball as we move on into the off-season, but we have DNVR’s college basketball expert Will Darkey to break it all down and share his perspective.
Jake Schwanitz: Will KJ Simpson and Tristan da Silva be back in Boulder to continue their development or are they NBA-ready prospects?
Will Darkey: While we saw both Simpson and da Silva take huge jumps in their games this year, I still lean to the side that both of them are back in Boulder next fall. Simpson stumbled through the latter half of the season, hurting his draft stock, so it would be best if he come back for a third year. It will be interesting to see how much buzz is created around da Silva’s name in the 2023 Draft. He isn’t getting much love yet, but that could certainly grow over the next few months. However, I still believe both come back to Boulder next season to further develop their game for the pros.
Jake: Was the 2022-2023 season a disappointing season or a season of growth?
Will: The 2022-2023 season was more of a season of growth. Expectations had to be tempered this year when CU was losing their two leading scorers in Jabari Walker and Evan Battey. KJ Simpson and Tristan da Silva made great strides in their development. Javon Ruffin looked solid in his first collegiate minutes. Luke O’Brien really came into his own. There were lots of little things to take away from this season of growth that should make Buff Nation excited for the upcoming year. The overall inexperience is what caused an 18-17 record this season, but wins over Tennessee and Texas A&M show the ceiling this young squad has.
Jake: Was losing Lawson Lovering to the transfer portal a big loss or can he be replaced?
Will: As of right now it is a big loss, mainly because of the minutes that Lovering provided this year. The 7-foot-1 sophomore started every game this past season, averaging 23 minutes per contest as the Buffs’ starting center. Lovering was a key factor in CU’s top-25 ranked defense, per KenPom. He also was beginning to find his footing on offense during the tail-end of the season. So, with the current state of Colorado’s roster, it’s a big loss. But, there are plenty of players in the portal who could come in and fill the void that Lovering is leaving behind in his departure.
Jake: Should Buff Nation be concerned that Quincy Allen and Nique Clifford also entered the portal?
Will: I am not too concerned with the exit of either Allen or Clifford. Quincy Allen struggled to find meaningful rotation minutes in Tad Boyle’s system, so the writing was on the wall for his transfer out. For Nique, I think it was going to be real tough for him to find the floor next season. With Cody Williams coming in, Javon Ruffin coming back from injury, and Luke O’Brien finding his groove this year, legitimate playing time was going to be tough to come by for Clifford. Nothing but respect for the junior in wanting to transfer out and get significant minutes in his last season of college ball. It will be interesting to see what piece or two Boyle and the coaching staff might add from the transfer portal, but I think whoever they get will most likely be a better fit than what Allen and Clifford would’ve provided next year.
Jake: Which players should Tad target in the transfer portal to fill CU’s roster holes?
Will: My top target would be Graham Ike, the star center from Wyoming. Ike is a Colorado native, as he attended Overland High School in Aurora, Colorado. With the Cowboys, Ike averaged 19.5 points per game and 9.6 rebounds per game in the 2021-22 season. He sat out all of this past year and just recently entered the portal. The 6-foot-9 veteran forward would be a huge addition to a Buffs’ front court that is very shallow right now after the departure of Lawson Lovering.
Ike should be a highly touted player in the portal though, so if CU is unable to land him then someone like Lars Thiemann could be a nice big to grab from the portal. The 7-foot center averaged 9.5 points and 5.4 boards for the Cal Golden Bears this season. In Cal’s win over CU on New Year’s Eve, Thiemann had 12 points. Thiemann would be a grad-transfer if he came to Boulder next season and would bring much-needed size and experience to the front court.
With CU’s new transfer rules in place thanks to Coach Prime, it will be interesting to see if Colorado goes after any high-major players. While players like Ethan Wright and Jalen Gabiddon were solid additions to the team this season, it will be somewhat of a luxury to get to look beyond the GPAs of the Ivy League. The transfer portal is a whole different ballgame in Boulder now.
Jake: What can we expect Cody Williams’ role to be in Tad’s system next year?
Will: I think the sky is the limit with Cody Williams. An athletic forward of his length paired with his handling and shooting skills could tear up the Pac-12 next season. I think he’ll play second fiddle to da Silva at the beginning of the season, but as the year progresses we’ll begin to see Williams’ style of play gel with the rest of the group and he’ll become a matchup nightmare for opponents. Buff Nation needs to prepare for a lot of highlight reel dunks.
Jake: Which role player(s) from last year is primed for an expanded role in 2023-2024?
Will: I think the way Julian Hammond III closed out the season was very promising and gives him a prime opportunity for an expanded role next season. Depending on what transfers come in this offseason, I think we could see Tad & company mess around with a back court of KJ Simpson at the two and Julian Hammond III at the helm next season. Even if Simpson starts at point guard someone transfers in, I think Hammond’s minutes will only increase into a more trusted lead man for the offense.