What: Senior Day, CU vs. Oregon State
When: Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
Where: Coors Events Center
Saturday’s game against Oregon State marks the last regular season game of senior Sabatino Chen’s collegiate career. The Monarch High graduate spent his first two years playing basketball for the University of Denver before transferring to CU before the 2010-2011 season, which he took as his mandatory transfer redshirt year.
Last season, Chen played in 35 games, helped the Buffs win the Pac-12 title and was part of the team’s first NCAA tournament appearance since the 2002-2003 season.
Chen wants to finish his career with another NCAA tournament appearance, he said, though first he wants to finish the regular season on a high note by toppling Oregon State.
How are you feeling before senior day?
It hasn’t really set in yet. It’s kind of weird–last time I’ll be playing in here, last time seeing most of these guys for a whole. (I have) mixed emotions.
When do you expect it to set in?
I don’t know, hopefully not until after the Oregon State game just because I don’t want it to affect how I play or anything.
What do you see as your leadership style on this team?
I’ve never been a guy to just get in someone’s face and yell at them because I feel like I don’t respond well to that when coaches get in my face and yell at me. I think it’s better to bring a guy to the side and tell them what you see and help them out and coach them from experience.
What’s the best memory you’ve got from being on this team?
Right now it would just be that Pac-12 run (to win the Pac-12 title) we had last year, just because I’ve never been a part of something like that and it was always my dream to go to the NCAA tournament. And we did it, against all odds. That was the thing that stands out the most.
That lost second shot against Arizona — what were you thinking before, during and after that shot?
I wasn’t really nervous but just kind of feeling like, our whole team was (saying) “We can’t believe we let this lead slip.” We had one last play, and we were really good at executing this play. And they actually stopped it so. I was supposed to pass to Ski (Askia Booker), and they stopped him so I didn’t really know what to do. I looked up at the clock and (there were) two seconds left so I made a move and shot it. It banked in and I just froze. I didn’t really know what that meant. My teammates just came running at me, and I thought I had won the game on their court. Up and down emotions.
It was tough just because Andre (Roberson) was fouled out, and going into overtime without him was hard enough. Spencer (Dinwiddie) had four fouls, and it felt like we had won the game. We left everything we had out there and then we were told we had to go again for five minutes, against a team that had momentum and had their whole court.
How do you get over a disappointment like that?
Personally you just have to try to put it in the past as much as possible, but whether guys admit it or not, I think it affected us. We went on a slump there, lost four out of five games after that. But not many teams go through that adversity. I think down the stretch it’s helped us. We’ve had strange games this year. Utah, we were down 25, came back within one and almost won it. Oregon we were down the whole game and ended up winning. It’s just helped us out, we feel like we can beat anybody, any time.
How has that last-second shot affected you and your career?
I don’t really know right now just because I want to try to play after, overseas. But I think that shot kind of maybe got my name out there to guys that never would’ve heard about me otherwise. So it got my name out there and maybe guys overseas are like, “Hey, let’s take a look at this guy.” Maybe the Asian leagues, too, because of my last name, Chen. It could be a blessing in disguise.
Growing up around here, playing for Monarch — looking back, what has playing for CU meant to you?
It’s a dream come true just because my goal in high school was at first to get a scholarship for a D-I school. If I could choose any school it would be a big-time school, close to my home, so CU fit that profile pretty well. It’s been everything I could ask for. My family gets to see me every game, a lot of local guys see me. It’s just fun playing in front of your home crowd.
Do you feel like a role model for other local guys playing high school ball?
I think there’s a lot of pressure in high school basketball. Just guys are told early what they can and can’t do, and I think as long as you work hard and stay after it and stay positive, things will work out for you.
Who’s been your biggest supporter throughout your career?
I’d say my parents, my high school coach and Coach Boyle. Even though I didn’t play for him right away, (we) have known each other since my junior year of high school. He recruited me at Greeley, so right when he heard I was transferring he said he wants me to play for him. When he got the job here he said, “I still want you to play for me, I think you can play with anybody.” He’s helped the most in a strictly basketball sense, and my parents for moral support.
What’s been the best piece of advice you’ve gotten at CU?
Your mindset, your attitude affects everything that happens to you. Sometimes you can’t control what situations occur, but you can make the most of it. I’ll take that away. In the future, you don’t know what’s going to happen. Right now this is probably one of the happiest times in my life.
What do you want your legacy to be here at CU?
Definitely I’d like to be recognized as one of the guys on the team that took CU to the NCAA tournament back-to-back years. That would be amazing. Just being known as that guy. Right when I got here people were questioning, “Why did Coach Boyle bring him? Why is he on scholarship?” Because I came from a small school at DU, and wasn’t recruited that highly out of Monarch. And now I’ve started games for a major conference. And hopefully I’ll get to play on a national stage in the tournament this year.
Any parting thoughts for your team or supporters and fans?
It’s been a hell of a ride, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more and I greatly appreciate everything they’ve given to me.
–Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.