BOULDER — Throughout the Tad Boyle era at Colorado, fans have had the opportunity to watch Buffaloes players grow from young newcomers to seasoned upperclassmen.

That’s one of the benefits of Boyle’s cornerstone fundamentals of building a program: recruit, develop and create a culture of success.

That philosophy has allowed CU fans to watch players blossom. From Austin Dufault to Andre Roberston, from Josh Scott to George King to McKinley Wright to Evan Battey, Buffs faithful have had the opportunity to watch wet-behind-the-ears youngsters transform into all-conference caliber performers.

Such opportunities are becoming more and more rare in today’s college athletics environment. The explosion of movement in the transfer portal has changed the philosophies of coaches across the country. Players spend one or two years at a school and then move on.

But while Boyle has not been averse to filling a need through a transfer or two, he has remained firm in his overall commitment to building through recruiting and development.

This year’s team — which has the potential to be his best yet in his 14 years in Boulder — is a prime example.

Leading scorer KJ Simpson is a third-year junior who has spent his entire college career in Boulder. Top rebounder and second-leading scorer Tristan da Silva is in his fourth season with the Buffs. Both were preseason all-Pac-12 selections and both have steadily blossomed in their time with Boyle and his staff.

But the recruit-and-develop philosophy reaches far deeper than just the Buffs’ top two producers this season.

Julian Hammond III is in his third year in Boulder. Luke O’Brien is in his fourth. Both have been key contributors this season. Even transfer J’Vonne Hadley, who spent his first year in college at Northeastern, will have the chance to play three seasons in Boulder.

“It’s a conscious decision that we’ve made,” Boyle said. “It didn’t happen by accident … Having that continuity, that development piece of the program is something that we’ve had success with since we’ve gotten here.”

Not that Boyle has refused to look into the transfer portal when a need arises. When CU lost a promising big man last spring to the portal, the Buffs reached into the portal to bring Eddie Lampkin Jr. to CU.

But such moves continue to be stopgap measures for Boyle and his staff, not the staple.

“We are going to build this program with high school kids,” Boyle said. “That’s why we signed four in the fall. We have them come here, grow, develop and accept the culture, embrace it.”

As a former college player (Kansas), Boyle is well-acquainted with the value of the college experience. He firmly believes that experience stretches far beyond the court — and he believes that such a culture is created and developed by older players passing their wisdom and experience on to their younger teammates.”

“To me, Luke O’Brien and Tristan da Silva are what college basketball should be about, college sports for that matter,” Boyle said after the Buffs knocked off No. 15 Miami last weekend. “In the day and age we live in, to have these guys spend four years together — they’re great friends, they’ll be great friends for the rest of their lives. To me, that’s what it’s about.”

Because Boyle’s philosophy is to recruit and develop over three or four years, he has always encouraged a strong leadership mentality from his players.

“They have ownership,” he said. “This is Luke’s program. He’s a Colorado born-and-bred guy. Tristan came from Munich, but when he leaves here, I want him to have Colorado black and gold blood coursing through his veins. Ownership in the program is to me what it’s all about, creating that culture and our freshmen learning from guys like this.”

With upperclassmen such as da Silva, O’Brien, Simpson and Hammond in place, Boyle has made sure to have another wave of players ready to roll.

Star freshman Cody Williams is already having an impact, although his journey to the NBA could make his stay in Boulder a relatively short one.

But also getting some playing time early are freshmen RJ Smith, Bangot Dak, Assane Diop and Joe Hurlburt — all of whom have the potential to become high-level Division I players.

Meanwhile, they will learn from the upperclassmen who are having impact seasons this year.

“Having great college experiences — to me, that’s what it’s about,” Boyle said. “That starts on campus, it starts at the Champions Center, getting to know other student-athletes during the football games, having a great relationship with your teammates and hopefully a great culture within your program. We’re going to continue that as long as we can be successful.”


Story by Neill Woelk, Contributing Editor for Content courtesy of the University of Colorado at Boulder.