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Buffs in Costa Rica for summer exhibition games

Colorado is taking its quadrennial summer trip to play four exhibition games in Costa Rica.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Georgetown at Colorado Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Tad Boyle’s crew went wheels up on Thursday morning for a quick tropical tuneup in Costa Rica. The Buffs are expected to play four games against professional Costa Rican teams from August 13 to 16 in the capital city of San Jose.

Colorado was able to hold 10 summer practices prior to the exhibition series which should be a valuable bonding experience for a young Buffs squad. The excursion is a NCAA-allowed international summer trip which is permitted every four years. Only Evan Battey remains from the previous Italy trip in 2017.

As Mason Faulkner recently bid adieu to the Buffs, the trip will provide plenty of opportunities for Boyle to get a look at his newer guys. KJ Simpson’s life, for example, just got a whole lot more interesting as a potential second option at point guard behind Keeshawn Barthelemy. Javon Ruffin is also in the mix but he is continuing to nurse a knee injury and won’t play in Costa Rica.

Boyle still said the trip will be less focused on floor combinations and instead more on building camaraderie and team expectations.

“Playing against somebody else is really, really helpful because you can really dial in,” Boyle said. “It gives you a test to see okay, is this working, or is this not? I have no idea what the competition level is going to be like, but one thing I know is our young guys especially will be able to learn from some mistakes that they make.”

Luke O’Brien didn’t get a ton of time to build on-floor chemistry last season, but Boulder has quickly become the land of opportunity in 2021. He described his freshman season as a “very humbling experience and one that helped grow his confidence.

O’Brien said he’s hoping to help replace the minutes of now-former Buffs, Maddox Daniels and D’Shawn Schwartz. The uber-competitive former Colorado 5A Player of the Year at Columbine High School added that he wanted to get a few wins out of the trip while continuing to bond with his teammates.

I asked Boyle about how O’Brien and Nique Clifford might fit into the picture this year. His response was that they’re both “very similar.” Both could also be a strong option for replacing Schwartz. Boyle will get a chance to preview this position battle and more in Costa Rica.

The Buffs will get a little break from the grind with a variety of team activities planned for the trip. In San Jose, they’ll tour the city, a coffee plantation and visit La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park. Following their exhibition games, they’ll head west to the Pacific Coast town of Los Suenos (including a planned zip line tour) before returning home on Aug. 19.

FloHoops.com will livestream all four exhibition games. The full schedule:

Game 1: vs. Costa Rican Pro Team, Friday, Aug. 13, 8 p.m.

Game 2: vs. Costa Rican Pro Team, Saturday, Aug. 14, 8 p.m.

Game 3: vs. Costa Rican Select Team, Sunday, Aug. 15, 6 p.m.

Game 4: vs. Costa Rican Pro Team, Monday, Aug. 16, 8 p.m.