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Former junior college hoops star J’Vonne Hadley the latest addition for CU Buffs

Rebounding reinforcements in place to offset potential loss of Jabari Walker

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It doesn’t happen often. Yet Tad Boyle has turned to the junior college ranks to drum up reinforcements for the Colorado men’s basketball team.

On Monday, 6-foot-6 forward J’Vonne Hadley announced his commitment to the Buffaloes. Hadley played this past season at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa and also appeared in 13 games at Northeastern as a freshman in the 2020-21 season.

Hadley is listed as a guard on the Indian Hills roster but he filled more of a frontcourt role this past season, and will look to do the same with the Buffaloes. Indian Hills is the same junior college that produced former Buffs players Shane Gatling and Marcus Relphorde.

Given the extra season of eligibility provided by the NCAA for the pandemic season of 2020-21, Hadley still has three seasons of eligibility remaining.

With the Buffs possibly losing Pac-12 leading rebounder Jabari Walker, along with the loss of Evan Battey’s 4.7 rebounds per game, finding help on the glass was a spring priority for Boyle and his staff. That effort began with landing Princeton graduate transfer Ethan Wright, a guard who ranked fourth in the Ivy League with 6.9 rebounds per game, and continued with the addition of Hadley.

“We don’t make a habit of recruiting junior college players,” Boyle said. “But the four (year school)-two-four kids, which is what J’Vonne is, he was a qualifier out of high school. He’s not your typical junior college player, or junior college student. It just felt like he fit exactly what we need.”

A native of St. Paul, Minn., Hadley appeared in 33 games (27 starts) at Indian Hills this past season, averaging 10.9 points and a team-leading 6.2 rebounds per game. Hadley shot .548 from the floor with a .354 mark on 3-pointers (23-for-65). Hadley also shot .718 at the free throw line (74-for-103).

Although neither Wright nor Hadley are traditional back-to-the-basket post players, they bring a combined 13.1 rebounds per game, albeit at lower-level leagues than the Pac-12, to potentially help offset the loss of Walker’s 9.4 rebounds per game, assuming he remains in the NBA draft pool.

The addition of a frontcourt player has become a necessity for Boyle since the potential addition of Bobi Klintman fell through. Klintman landed at Wake Forest instead. Only 7-1 Lawson Lovering, a freshman last season who missed the final 13 games due to a knee injury, remained on the roster as a true post player, although 6-10 Tristan da Silva certainly will fill a frontcourt role. The Buffs also are welcoming 6-10 freshman Joe Hurlburt.

As for the remainder of the spring recruiting season, how active CU remains will be entirely dependent on Walker, who will be competing this week at the NBA draft combine in Chicago. Two weeks ago, Walker’s father, former NBA veteran Samaki Walker, told ESPN that his son had “no intentions on returning to school” and was “all in” on going pro. Boyle walked back that finality somewhat last week, telling BuffZone that while a strong showing this week in Chicago likely land Walker an opportunity, the door had not yet shut on a return to Boulder.

Walker has until June 1 to withdraw from the NBA draft pool and retain his college eligibility. Assuming Walker remains in the draft pool, Boyle and his staff could very well remain in the market for additional frontcourt help.

“(Hadley) is probably a little undersized in terms of playing inside,” Boyle said. “But he can rebound the ball. He can rebound the ball. He can score in a lot of different ways. He’s a defensive guy who can guard multiple positions with that 6-foot-6 size. With Bobi Klintman and that situation that went down, we felt like we needed somebody who could come in and play right away, especially with Jabari still up in the air.”

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