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Buffs Basketball Players Will Be Ready Whenever Season Begins

Aug 23, 2020

BOULDER — Like almost everyone else who wasn't on the inside of the decision-making process, Colorado senior Dallas Walton was shocked when the Pac-12 recently grouped basketball in with fall sports in the decision to cancel all competition until at least Jan. 1.

Under normal circumstances, the college basketball schedule doesn't start until November — roughly three months away from when the Pac-12 made the call.

But now, no Pac-12 sports will be played until at least 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We knew that football would probably be affected but we weren't anticipating ourselves to be affected," the CU 7-footer said last week. "It was something that we had to take in and adjust to, just like everybody has been adjusting to things all year. There was some disappointment for sure, but we just have to stay ready, which is mainly our goal."

Walton isn't the only Buff to profess his surprise publicly. Just a few days after the decision was announced, CU men's head coach Tad Boyle expressed "shock and disbelief" in the decision. Boyle was especially critical of the timing of the Pac-12's move, noting that there were still several months ahead during which officials could have gauged pandemic activity.

But now that the Buffs have had a little time to digest the decision, they plan on doing the only thing they can do — continue to prepare for the season, whenever it may start.

"I know that one thing is for sure — we want to play," Walton said. "What that looks like, we don't know right now. I know there are a lot of ideas and solutions being thrown around. But as far as we know, we're preparing for a season whether that comes all of a sudden in December or January. We just need to stay ready, which is what Coach Boyle's been talking to us about and what all of our coaching staff has really emphasized to us. However that looks, we don't know — but we'll be ready."

Walton and his teammates, including a host of newcomers, have actually had the opportunity to get into the weight room and gym this summer and conduct some workouts. They have closely followed CU protocols, and thus far have had "zero issues" according to Boyle.

Walton said part of that success rate so far has come from players doing their best to follow protocols even when they aren't working out.

"We come to college to go from being kids to young adults," Walton said. "That professionalism that usually is required over time, the younger guys have to get it a lot quicker and the older guys have to maintain it. It's a matter of how you carry yourself … Our coach emphasizes that we represent our family, the team and ourselves at all times. If we're embarrassing one of those three, we're doing something wrong. That's how we have to carry ourselves."

Women's basketball player Aubrey Knight said her teammates and coaches have taken their responsibility seriously as well.

"It takes extra discipline in understanding that every decision we make is for the bigger aspect of playing a season," Knight said. "If we want to play a season in January we have to do these things that may be difficult now in order to make that happen. We can't go being reckless and go and party and hang out with all these people. We understand that if we want to have a season, which all of us do, we have to be doing these things. Not going out, wearing a mask when you're in public. Being the example for Colorado sports and Colorado in general."

Both the men's and women's teams had postseason appearances canceled last March by the pandemic. The men were expected to receive an NCAA bid; the women were headed to the WNIT.

That, Walton and Knight said, will be motivation for whenever their season starts.

"Our seniors — that's who we're playing for this year," Walton said. "(Former Buffs) Lucas (Siewert) and Shane (Gatling), guys who worked so hard to get to the tournament and then kind of have it ripped from them. And then, obviously we have something to prove. That's going to be a lot of fuel for us this season."

Contact: Neill.Woelk@Colorado.edu