Celebration is upon Colorado basketball. As you may have heard, the Buffs pulled off their biggest win of the season over Arizona. Tickets to the Big Dance have been virtually punched. Now it's Senior Day and time to celebrate the careers of four seniors. I didn't want to write about Arizona State and all their meh-ness this season (they're 4-11 in the Pac-12 and just lost to Utah by 35), so instead I wrote a bit about each senior.
Hailing from Highlands Ranch, where he was a star for the Falcons, Brett Brady chose to attend CU over offers from Oxford and Ball So Hard University. Through hard work and dedication, Brett Brady was finally able to get on the roster as a walk-on. That hard work was exemplified by Brady relentlessly following Tad Boyle from the CEC to his car everyday while wearing a Borat-type swimsuit and shouting obscenities that would make even the most evil middle schoolers cry. Lesson learned.
By the time Brady hangs up his shoes for the final time, he will likely be the winningest player in Colorado history having been a part of seventeen victories to one loss in three seasons. I don't actually have the Basketball-Reference skills to fact check, but it checks out otherwise.
Fun fact: Brett Brady changed his number from 22 to 31 because too many people thought he was Richard Roby reenrolled. Since Brady is a much better three-point shooter, you can understand why he was insulted by the comparison.
Brady will graduate in the spring with a degree in Applied Mathematics. I haven't taken an applied mathematics course, but I've heard from friends that even the most basic classes in that field are downright impossible. Props to Brady for studying that while committing to basketball. From Sabatino Chen to Brett Brady, the Buffs will need to find a new mathematician to fill that role. Maybe Kenan Guzonjic will switch from economics.
Any way you look at it, Eli Stalzer has had a weird career.
At Mater Dei High, a school known for their quarterbacks and their basketball program, Stalzer was chosen to co-captain an absolutely loaded Monarchs squad that would win the California state championship in a blowout. Just to name a few, Stalzer captained Colorado's own Xavier Johnson, former Arizona and current Detroit Piston Stanley Johnson and USC's Katin Reinhardt. Stalzer didn't post gaudy stats or make the scouts' jaws drop, but he showed tremendous leadership and intelligence on the court.
When Stalzer began his CU career, no one expected to play much, not with a plethora of guards on the Buffs roster. Still, Stalzer was able to play just under ten minutes per game in 25 games total. He looked posed to be a solid contributor off the bench and a possible starter when he would be an upperclassman. Stalzer contributed similar numbers in similar playing time the following year for a Buffs' squad that reached No. 15 in the polls (luv u Spence). Of course, Stalzer wasn't able to move up in the rotation after Chen and Jeremy Adams's spots cleared because freshmen George King and Jaron Hopkins moved up. This would be a theme for Stalzer's career.
Dinwiddie left for the NBA and King redshirted, so there once again appeared to be an opening for Stalzer. Alas, Tre'Shaun Fletcher and freshman Dom Collier moved past Stalzer in the rotation. In his junior year, Stalzer played about six minutes per game in 19 appearances. Before this season, Colorado starters Askia Booker and Jaron Hopkins were gone, but as you know, Stalzer wasn't chosen to fill in those openings. Instead, King came back from redshirting and Josh Fortune transferred from Providence. Stalzer appeared to at least retain his role as reserve guard, but the Belgian sensation hustled his way past the senior guard. Stalzer has only played sixteen minutes all season, one less than Brett Brady.
Each year Stalzer appeared to move up in the rotation, one new-comer moved past him for that spot. In the past two years, a second new-comer has pushed him down even further.
Stalzer doesn't want you to think this is a sob story. He may be frustrated, but there's a reason he hasn't transferred for more playing: He loves his role on the Buffs, no matter what it is. This season, his job is to provide senior leadership from the bench and no one does this as well as he does.
Additionally, Stalzer sure does do great things off the court. Stalzer serves as one of two active players on NCAA D-I Men's Basketball Issues Committee. I don't know how much voice this committee has (many would be doubtful of the NCAA listening at all), but his role is an important as can be. Brett Brady is a young mathematician, but Stalzer's trade may be even more impressive. He's a damn pianist in the College of Music. As a former middle school basketball icon, I know a thing or two about how susceptible players' fingers are. If I was a pianist, I wouldn't even get near a basketball.
Also notable, Eli Stalzer has amassed twelve trillions in his career with four coming just this year. Last year against Utah, he was one turnover away from posting an absurd 11 trillion, which is basically the white bench guy's triple double. Hopefully he’ll come in against Arizona State and finish his career with another trillion.
To an extent, Xavier Talton has also had a weird career, but not nearly as weird as Stalzer. In his freshman season, Talton was the last guard in the rotation, behind Stalzer. Still, he played in 32 of 33 games for the Buffs. In that limited playing time, he showcased what made him such a dominant high school player. Talton possessed a shot that was always on balance (which is key for shooting consistency), he had good court vision for someone so young and, perhaps most importantly, he was always grilling defensively.
The following season, Talton took advantage of Sabatino Chen's graduation and seized that supporting role. Much like Chen, Talton would be able to provide solid shooting and excellent perimeter defense. When Dinwiddie went down, his additional ball handling skills thrusted him into the starting lineup. It's hard to say whether or not he thrived in that role, but he was consistent and well-rounded enough to play heavy minutes on a successful team.
To start the following season, Talton was once again a starter, but he would eventually lose that job to Jaron Hopkins. With uncharacteristically poor shooting, turnover struggles and even inconsistent defense, the junior guard had appeared to regress; some suggested he had flat out gotten worse. Whether or not the latter suggestion was true, XT didn't appear starter worthy. With Josh Fortune eligible for the 2015-16 season and Hopkins still on the program, it appeared that Talton could even slip in the rotation the same way Stalzer had.
After Hopkins transferred to Fresno State (best of luck, Jaron), Talton started the season where he had finished the season prior. From the bench, little Xavier still struggled with turnovers, but his shooting was back to form (40% from deep this season) and his defense was as stingy as ever (102 defensive rating). It was obvious that if Colorado was going to push for an NCAA Tournament berth, he would be involved in the success. You know the rest: Fortune struggled with turnovers and shooting and Talton eventually reclaimed his starting spot.
Even more so than his defense, Talton's best attribute is his stabilizing effect on the team. His mindset rubs off on the rest of the team and as a result, Tad Boyle has ended games with XT on the floor as of late. It's hard to imagine the Buffs without Talton in a supporting role.
At the moment, Talton has played in 130 games for the Buffs. After the Arizona State and Utah games, he'll only be four games behind Austin Dufault for most all-time. Colorado only needs three more tournament victories -- Pac-12 or NCAA -- for him to break the record, which is rather doable for the Buffs. Obviously Talton won't be gunning for that record, but expect him to be an integral part of any CU victory.
As good as Josh Scott is, he deserves his own tribute article. We'll have one out in due time, don't worry. Until then, enjoy Senior Day and celebrate all the work these seniors have done.