CU’s Sabatino Chen is the only senior on Tad Boyle’s roster this season.
CU's Sabatino Chen is the only senior on Tad Boyle's roster this season. ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )
Tad Boyle describes Sabatino Chen is the E.F. Hutton of the Colorado basketball program.

For those C-Unit fanatics who were not born when the stock brokerage firm aired its memorable commercials in the 1970s and 1980s, that means when the reserved Chen speaks, the Buffs are listening.

"Sab is one of those dudes that when he says something, it means something," said gregarious point guard Spencer Dinwiddie. "When he puts his foot down, that's the law. It's not so much that he's quiet, it's just like he lays down the rules and you follow them. He's a great leader."

Chen, the only senior on CU's gifted roster, is embracing his new role as the team's elder statesman.

After playing in all 35 games of the Buffs' run to the NCAA Tournament last season as a reserve (2.0 ppg, 9.9 mpg), Chen has worked hard to add muscle to his his 6-4 frame and consistency to his jump shot.

When Dinwiddie and Askia Booker attack the paint, Chen believes he will have to be ready to deliver on the perimeter.

"There is a lot of potential and athleticism on this team. If we can play together and play defense, we can be pretty good," Chen said. "I want to be a knock-down shooter for when Spencer and Ski drive because they can create really well. If I can do that to help the team, that would be good."

Reigning Pac-12 rebounding champion Andre Roberson is going to receive a lot of national attention this season if the Buffs perform well.

Dinwiddie and Booker, who are both seasoned sophomores, are onthe fast track to Pac-12 stardom.


CU fans can't wait to get a look at the highly touted 2012 recruiting class made up of Wesley Gordon, Chris Jenkins, Xavier Johnson, Josh Scott, Eli Stalzer and Xavier Talton.

But the coaching staff believes Chen can have the kind of major impact that role players Levi Knutson, Austin Dufault and Nate Tomlinson provided during their final seasons in Boulder.

"Sabatino had an unbelievably great offseason, which has been typical of our seniors since we've been here," Boyle said. "He really worked hard in weight room and his jump shot is much better.

"And we know Sabatino always plays with great energy and passion. He's poised for a great senior year."

Stalzer, a versatile 6-3 guard, wisely adopted Chen as a role model during summer workouts and on CU's five-game tour of Europe in August.

"Sabatino Chen," Stalzer said when asked which of his new teammates have stood out. "I've gained a lot of respect for him. He's just one of the hardest workers. At first you don't think he can do much, but he really surprises you. I definitely look up to him."

Chen began his collegiate career playing for Joe Scott at the University of Denver. When Boyle, who had recruited Chen when he was the coach at Northern Colorado, took the job at CU, the former Monarch High Standout decided to transfer.

As a junior, Chen was a solid rotation player on the Pac-12 Tournament championship team. He was also an all-conference academic first team selection.

"I just want to be that solid player that coach can rely on," Chen said. "A player who doesn't make mistakes and knows what the plays are, kind of like a second coach out there to help the younger guys with everything."

Chen and his young teammates will participate in Buffs Madness on Friday night at the Coors Events Center as practices officially get underway ahead of the Nov. 9 opener against Wofford College.

"Sabatino is a quiet guy and one of the things we've challenged him on, especially being the only senior, is to be vocal," Boyle said. "The thing about Sabatino is he has the respect of his teammates because of his work ethic and how he goes about his business."

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