Talents like Cody Williams don’t typically sign with Colorado basketball, despite the track record under head coach Tad Boyle.
However, Williams does not fit the typical mold of the modern elite basketball player.
Williams, ranked the No. 21 recruit in the Class of 2023 by 247Sports, electrified Buff Nation this week by deciding CU over LSU on national signing day. In addition to the hard work of head coach Tad Boyle and his staff, several other factors played in CU’s favor.
Williams’ older brother, Jalen, took an unconventional route to the NBA, playing (and developing) three seasons in Santa Clara before being drafted 12th overall in last summer’s NBA draft. According to Boyle, William’s parents have a military background with a Colorado connection, having once worked at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora.
“His older brother was a first-round draft pick that summer. Mom and Dad still go to work every day and get their jobs done,” Boyle said. “They are certainly proud of their two boys and they also have an older daughter. But they don’t live vicariously through their children, and that’s very rare among NBA-caliber talent today. Which his older brother obviously is, and Cody is.”
Despite the perfectly understandable excitement surrounding the program and the fantasies of CU fans imagining the majority of this year’s roster paired with Williams, Boyle reminded that there is still work to be done.
“We don’t put the cart before the horse,” Boyle added. “I think Cody chose Colorado because he’s willing to work. He wants to work. He wants to get better. He wants to develop his body. We are so blessed to have him. It fits everything we are looking for.”
Boyle said the youth of the Buffs’ other new signee, 6-foot-5 guard Courtney Anderson Jr., was an attraction during the recruiting process. Anderson just turned 17 in August, mirroring the youth of former Buffs star Jabari Walker. Walker played two seasons at CU but was still only 19 when he was selected by Portland in the second round of this year’s NBA draft (Walker turned 20 on July 30).
“For me, that’s something that we’re actually looking at,” Boyle said. “Is a guy old for his grade or young for his grade? You must rate them accordingly. If you see a man at 17 who has the skills he has, where will he be when he’s 20? Well, by the time he’s 20, he’ll be a sophomore in college. When he’s 20, he’ll be damn good. I’m not saying he can’t be good beforehand, but he will be a special player.”
The court at Grambling State’s Hobdy Assembly Center is named after the school’s most famous basketball alumna, Hall of Famer Willis Reed. This week Boyle shared some childhood memories of the former New York Knicks star.
“I asked our boys last week if anyone knew who Willis Reed was. Nobody knew who Willis Reed was,” Boyle said. “So there is a lot of education that can be done. And (Grambling had) one of the greatest football coaches of all time in Eddie Robinson and one of the toughest undersized centers to ever play in the NBA in Willis Reed. I remember watching Willis Reed take on Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain as a kid. He dropped four or five inches on both, but he was a fighter and tough as nails.”
The agreement between the Pac-12 and SWAC’s HBCUs has been dubbed the “Legacy Series,” and CU’s game at Grambling will be the first road game for a Pac-12 club in the inaugural round of games. Oregon outperformed Florida A&M on Monday’s opening night, and USC rebounded from its opening night loss to Florida’s Gulf Coast by beating Alabama State 96-58 on Thursday night. Arizona is also hosting a Legacy Series game against Southern on Friday night.
The final games of the Legacy Series on the men’s side will be road games for the Pac-12 teams, with Arizona State visiting Texas Southern on Sunday, followed by Washington State at Prairie View A&M on Tuesday. Grambling State will visit CU next season.
Reduce KJ sales
KJ Simpson’s debut as CU’s starting point guard followed a similar plan in the exhibition win over Nebraska as well as Monday’s season-opening win over UC Riverside. Simpson’s quick pace and ability to share the ball helped the Buffs get off to quick starts in both contests, but he ultimately finished with an identical, below-average ratio of three assists to four turnovers.
“It’s something I’ve obviously been working on a lot,” Simpson said. “I spent a lot of time in the offseason watching movies, just coming to the gym and working hard on passing and ball handling. But I take full responsibility for the sales. I know I won’t be able to do that stuff as the season progresses. Especially with a year of experience and my role a lot bigger than last year. I just have to scale it down, and I will.”
UMass, the Buffs’ opponent in Thursday’s Myrtle Beach Invitational opener, won its first game under new coach Frank Martin (formerly head coach of South Carolina and Kansas State) in a 94-67 decision against Central Connecticut State, but lost on Thursday night at home with 67:55 against Towson. The Minutemen won’t play again until they face CU.