T he 2012 recruiting class arrives in Boulder expecting the Colorado basketball program to dominate at the Coors Events Center, compete for Pac-12 championships and make memorable postseason tournament runs.
Those are some of the new standards that have been established by head coach Tad Boyle over the past two seasons.
There is still one player on the roster — Shane Harris-Tunks — who took a chance on CU when the program was still just a rebuilding Big 12 bottom feeder.
“I was thinking about it the other day, I’m the only (Jeff) Bzdelik recruit left now,” Harris-Tunks said. “I just feel like I’ve been here forever compared to these other guys.”
Harris-Tunks, a 6-foot-11 center, will be entering his redshirt junior season.
He averaged only 2.7 points and 2.2 rebounds off the bench last year but sparked the team with some quality minutes during the March madness that included a conference tournament title and an NCAA Tournament win over UNLV.
During the last two offseasons, Harris-Tunks watched as Levi Knutson and Austin Dufault set themselves up for fantastic finishes to their collegiate careers after three years of role play.
Dufault averaged 11.1 points and 4.4 rebounds as a senior after averaging 6.6 and 4.2 as a junior. Knutson averaged 11.7 points with 81 made 3-pointers as a senior after averaging 3.5 points with 10 made 3-pointers as a junior.
A strong work ethic has paid off for other Bzdelik recruits under Boyle.
“Those guys didn’t just turn up their senior year and all of a sudden they’re better than the three years before that,” Harris-Tunks said. “They had great summers leading into their senior years. You come in early and they’re already here when you think you’re early. Seeing guys like that helps you see what it takes to get to that level.”
The unselfish Australian wants to do more damage down under the basket. Harris-Tunks has been focusing on post moves and on strengthening his legs.
“I expect to be more of an offensive threat, whether that comes in scoring or just drawing a double team and being able to get other people open off that,” Harris-Tunks said. “Just being more recognized by the other team as an offensive threat, which will help other guys get open.”
Harris-Tunks missed out on this year’s early summer workouts at the Coors Events Center. He was playing on an Australian junior national team that competed in China.
Since returning to Boulder recently, Harris-Tunks has been able to get acquainted with the new big men on campus — freshmen post players Josh Scott (6-10) and Wesley Gordon (6-8).
Suddenly the Buffs appear to have an abundance of length and athleticism with 6-5 Spencer Dinwiddie at point guard, Chris Jenkins (6-7), Xavier Johnson (6-6) and Jeremy Adams (6-5) on the wing, and Andre Roberson (6-7) poised for a huge junior season.
“Andre is still going to do what Andre does. He’ll find a way to grab rebounds,” Harris-Tunks said of the Pac-12’s reigning rebound king. “But he’s going to have a lot more help on the offensive rebounding side of things. I think teams will struggle to defend that.”
Playing his freshman season (2009-10) under Bzdelik, Harris-Tunks led the Buffs in blocked shots.
Harris-Tunks sat out the 2010-11 season due to a knee injury. Boyle said losing the true center was the worst thing that could have happened to that NIT semifinal squad, other than losing Alec Burks or Cory Higgins.
After back-to-back 24-win seasons, the NCAA Tournament appearance and with a top-25 recruiting class in the fold, Harris-Tunks understands expectations for his play, and the program as a whole, have been raised dramatically.
“I think in the past, my freshman and sophomore year, teams would come in here not thinking much of Colorado,” Harris-Tunks said. “Now Colorado is a school you prepare for and you have to be ready to play.”