Published: June 26, 2013
So, whatever happened to that Wesley Gordon kid from Sierra High School?
"Wesley? He's a great talent. He's got the most NBA talent on the team," Colorado Buffaloes teammate Spencer Dinwiddie told me in a statement sure to raise some eyebrows.
"I've made that very clear. I believe in Wesley wholeheartedly. I can't wait to see what he can do for us next year. The sky's the limit for Wesley."
The NBA draft is Thursday night. The basketball eyes of Boulder are on Andre Roberson, the forward who left school to enter the draft after his junior season.
Roberson was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and a menacing piece of a Buffs roster that reached the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season.
Now Roberson is gone, a year too soon. So why was Buffs coach Tad Boyle all smiles when I tracked him down at the U.S. Olympic Training Center?
"We're in good shape," Boyle said.
Here's why: the Buffs have recruited well enough to lose a player like Roberson, ahead of schedule, and not skip a beat. That's the mark of a basketball program with staying power.
If the Buffs become the program they want to be - "A sustainable Top-25 program every year," Boyle said - early departures are part of the deal.
I expect Dinwiddie will develop enough to leave after next season, his junior year.
Dinwiddie is a 6-foot-6 guard. During the World University Games tryouts this week, I watched him play and defend three positions. His versatility intrigues NBA personnel, and Boyle knows it.
"For us, we're recruiting as if we're going to lose Spencer next year," Boyle said. "That's a distinct possibility, as well. You have to prepare for all those types of situations."
Dinwiddie also gives hope to all the tiny ballers who dream of making it to the big time. Entering his freshman year of high school, Dinwiddie was 5-7, 117 pounds.
"It's hard work. But honestly, no one can say, 'Hey, I'm going to grow a foot taller.' It doesn't happen that way," Dinwiddie said. "I have to thank God for the physical aspect of my game."
And if the Buffs' evaluations of Gordon are accurate, that's another potential NBA talent to watch out for.
Gordon is listed at 6-8, 225 pounds. Since he was redshirted as a freshman, there was the assumption Gordon might be in over his head by choosing to play in the Pac-12.
That's a common misconception with redshirts.
Coaches don't redshirt kids because the kid isn't good enough to be a part of their program. They redshirt kids because they will be. A redshirt extends their scholarship life to five years; why would they keep him around that long if he doesn't factor into their future plans?
"Wesley Gordon's going to be good next year for us. And we're counting on him," Boyle said.
Here's the question with Gordon: Is he motivated to be better than average?
"One of the reasons for redshirting him was because we knew there was a chance Andre would move on (to the NBA draft)," Boyle said. "We knew that was a distinct possibility. That opens up a lot of opportunity for Wesley as a redshirt freshman."
Gordon has a real shot at becoming a starter for the Buffs as a redshirt freshman.
That's because Roberson, who would have been the starter at forward, is gone.
I still take a romantic approach to the NBA draft. When you've seen the roots and neighborhoods that produce many of the players who will take the stage, it strikes you as a small miracle they made it this far.
Roberson left CU because his family believes he will earn a first-round selection and the guaranteed money that comes with it. The Buffs gave their best pitch to lure him back, even meeting with his family during the NCAA Tournament in Austin, Texas, near his hometown.
"I thought we had a productive meeting," former athletic director Mike Bohn told me in May. "In the end, they decided they wanted to go."
I haven't spoken to an NBA scout or college coach who believes Roberson will be one of the 32 picks in the first round. Here's hoping they are wrong.
The easy, selfish route is to bash Roberson for making a decision that could hurt his future more than CU's. But I have a hard time criticizing a 21-year-old for this:
"He's chasing his dream," as Dinwiddie put it. "You can't knock a man for chasing his dream."
The dreams of Roberson's former teammates might come true sooner than expected.