Evan Battey is set to join a Colorado front-court that lacks depth so he will have a chance to make an impact on the court as a freshman. But it is his "big personality and infectious passion" that Tad Boyle mentioned first about Battey when he signed with the Buffaloes.
"Colorado's coaches see me coming in and being more than just a basketball player," Battey told BuffStampede.com on Tuesday night. "They want me to be a leader, a guy that brings a personality as far as keeping things positive and keeping everyone's spirits up. They want me to come in and be who I am, and basketball will take care of itself."
The recipient of the Orange County Athletic Directors Association Student Athlete of Character Award earlier this year, Battey was deemed ineligible by the CIF Southern Section during the 2016-17 season even though he had only played three years of high school entering his senior year.
It was a frustrating winter for Battey, but he took the CIF's ruling in stride. The versatile big man participated in Villa Park's practices and served as an extra coach on the bench.
“It was important for me to support my teammates, but it was also important for me to be around my coaches and prepare for college,” Battey said. “It gave me a different perspective of the game, which was good, but not playing definitely lit a different type of fire in me, for sure.”
An all-county and all-league selection as a junior after averaging 24 points per game, Battey was described by Scout.com basketball recruiting analyst Josh Gershon as “one of the most unique prospects in the 2017 class.” Boyle agreed and made him a priority recruit.
“He's unique in that he can really score on the block, but he can also shoot the three-pointer,” the Buffaloes' head coach said. “He demands double-teams down low, because if you don't, he's going to punish you. He's a great passer out of the post and will be a good screener with his size.”
Currently 6-foot-7.5, 280-pounds, Battey aims to get down to 265-pounds this summer. And he wants to get down to 260 before competing against Pac-12 competition.
The size of an offensive tackle prospect, Battey admits there was some pressure to play football growing up.
“But once people saw me play basketball, they kind of understood why I chose to play that sport instead,” he said. “Some people are naturally better at football being my size, and I do have a lot of qualities that could translate to football, but they also work pretty well for me on the basketball court.”
Battey's excellent footwork helps him excel despite being substantially heavier than the average basketball player. He credits that to his background in soccer.
“I played soccer until I was in eighth grade and I still practice it sometimes in my free time,” Battey said. “Soccer helped with my footwork translating over to the basketball court.”
And Battey's footwork helped him dance into the hearts of Colorado fans on the eve of the early signing period last fall:
Battey spent four days in Boulder in January. While establishing dining favorites at Pasta Jay's and The Buff Restaurant, he also got an opportunity to watch the Buffaloes' host UCLA and USC. Colorado lost both games, and the Buffs later fell short of their pre-season goals with a first-round exit in the NIT Tournament.
“I went to practices and I know those guys played their hearts out and the coaches poured their heart into it, too,” Battey said of the 2016-17 Buffs. “They came up a little short but I think the passion is there in the program, the heart is there. I think with us freshmen coming in this year, we can accomplish great things.”
Battey played a year of club basketball with Tyler Bey and they began bonding with D'shawn Schwartz during their official visit to Colorado last fall. Battey and Schwartz recently got an opportunity to hang out in California.
"D'shawn was on his spring break and we went out to eat," Battey said. "Our relationship is definitely forming. And that developing relationship is going to be huge for him, Tyler and I."
All three of the Buffaloes' early signees are expected to arrive in Boulder in early June to start workouts. In August, they will accompany the team over to Europe to participate in a handful of scrimmages.
“You can expect me to bring a different aspect than the tall, slender guys obviously,” Battey said. “I think my physicality is going to be good for the team next year. A lot of guys try to avoid contact but I like getting pushed around, pushing back. I plan to bring some grittiness."
Battey will also bring some energy to the Coors Events Center.