DENVER – Imagine this scenario, Buffs fans. Try not to dream.
It's the summer of 2011, and Colorado basketball is prepping for a season in which it will have three future NBA players on its roster. How does that sound?
"When I think about the fact we could've had Spencer Dinwiddie, Alec Burks and Andre Roberson on the same team.." CU coach Tad Boyle said.
His voice trailed off, as if he, too, were daydreaming.
"Then you're not just talking about making the NCAA Tournament. You're talking about deep runs in the NCAA Tournament."
Oh, the possibilities. Alas, the NBA triumvirate never materialized at Coors Events Center. After his sophomore year, Burks became a lottery pick in the NBA draft.
Unwittingly, Burks also set off a trend as rare in Boulder as meeting a native or bipartisan politics. In 112 years of Buffs basketball, five players have entered the NBA draft before their senior seasons, the school said. Three of the five early entries happened in the past three years: Burks, Roberson and Dinwiddie.
So I had to ask the coach: Who's next?
"If there is one, it's Josh Scott. He has a chance," Boyle told me. "Josh would be the guy."
The pride of Lewis-Palmer to the NBA — prior to his senior year?
"I would say this: is it a possibility that Josh Scott becomes a first-round draft pick in the NBA draft next year? Absolutely it's a possibility," Boyle said. "Are we planning on that in (our) recruiting? No, we're not. But if he does, we'll deal with it. I hope he does."
When I watched Scott try to throw around his weight against Kansas center Joel Embiid in a December game in Boulder, the matchup spoke volumes about where they stood in their respective basketball careers.
At 7-feet tall, Embiid searched for contact and showed the agility of a perennial All-Star in the NBA. At 6-foot-10, Scott seemed to be in search of a nasty streak.
No worries. Here's the best thing about Scott, whose quick wit is as endearing as his Colorado roots: there's time. In 2014-15, he's only a junior. And he's still 6-10.
Shoot, if the big man were playing in Poland or Croatia and his name were tougher to pronounce, the Nuggets might draft him.
"I told Josh: If you are a consensus first-round draft pick next year, and the information we get says that, I'm going to encourage you to leave. If you're a borderline guy who may slip into the second round, you need to stay," Boyle said.
The Buffs roster has been sliced from the two-sided sword that is the NBA draft.
On one side, CU has lost three players before the Buffs could benefit from their full potential. (See: the 2011-12 lineup that could have been). That hurts.
On the other side, Boyle flew to Las Vegas for the start of the July evaluation period Wednesday with a sincere message to their top recruiting targets.
"We can tell them, 'It's possible to do it (at CU),'" Boyle said.
Despite the early departure of Dinwiddie, whose knee injury caused him to slip to the Pistons in the second round of the draft, the Buffs are in a favorable spot. CU returns every other player from a roster that advanced to the NCAAs in his absence.
"Spencer goes down on Jan. 12," Boyle said. "So we got a six-week jump on this year, playing without him."
Is it a good thing or a bad thing that CU has lost several players to the NBA?
"I think it's both," he said.
When CU loses a star to the draft, it's a different dynamic than the bluebloods who plug and play. Kansas scours the blue-chip rankings for its next pro. At CU, the loss can linger. The Buffs must unearth a diamond and develop him.
"The only thing that makes it difficult is that we're recruiting solid players that are potentially NBA bound, but we're not replacing those guys with McDonald's All-Americans. Those guys are hard to get," Boyle said. "We're replacing those kinds of players with those kinds of players. So we need to continue developing them like we have."
The Josh Scott you see next season has only a faint resemblance to the Josh Scott who led Lewis-Palmer to the Class 4A state title in 2012. But before CU opens the season by hosting Bruce Pearl and Auburn on Nov.?17, Scott must continue the growth that made him a first-team all-Pac 12 pick as a sophomore.
Is it likely Scott is bound for the NBA draft after his junior season? No.
Is it possible? The new trend at CU says so.