P12 California Colorado Basketball
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Colorado’s D’Shawn Schwartz prepares to pass the ball around California’s Connor Vanover during the first half of a game in the first round of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Wednesday in Las Vegas.

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By Paul Klee

BOULDER • They lined up over an hour early to get front row. Their guy was playing the Fox Theater, man. You serious? The Buffs basketball team wasn’t about to miss this.

And they were all there, front and center and too stoked: point guard McKinley Wright IV, leaned against the stage and rocking a Pippen jersey; sophomore big man Evan Battey bouncing all over in Lakers gear. And on the mic and turntables... the man of the hour... their teammate... D’Shawn Schwartz, stage name “D’Shawn Trackson.”

“Coolest thing ever,” Schwartz, the former Sand Creek star, told me on Monday. “So much fun.”

If there’s a hobby this renaissance man hasn’t tried, I’d love to see it. In between juggling his music, marketing major at the Leeds School of Business and, oh yeah, a basketball career in the Pac-12 Conference, Schwartz has little to zero downtime. Worth it. All of it, worth it.

No one’s squeezing more out of the college experience than Schwartz, a 6-foot-7, 226-pound sophomore now, and these days he’s in the process of reinventing himself as a basketball player. This guy can’t sit still.

Colorado hosts Dayton in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament at 9 p.m. Tuesday. This is not the stage Schwartz and the Buffs envisioned to start the season.

“Personally, I thought we’d be in the (NCAA) Tournament. Then we dropped a few games early,” he said. But don’t knock the opportunity at hand. Here’s a Buffs outfit that’s 21-11 and should return its top six scorers next season: “Maybe add a guy or two,” Schwartz said, “But this is us.”

And if the Buffs are serious about reaching the Big Dance in 2019-20, they should take the NIT seriously. That looked to be the case Monday during a heated practice at CU Events Center, Tad Boyle barking commands and one player slamming the ball into the court after a missed assignment. Good. Get mad. Take it serious.

“There was a shift. There was definitely a shift with us,” said Schwartz, whose squad opened the Pac-12 season 2-6 before closing with a 10-3 record in February and March. “We just started guarding. I think that’s what happened. Pretty simple, it got fun. We started having fun.”

Hold up, Trackson. This guy has 99 hobbies and defense has never been one.

“Right?” he said with a laugh.

What ignited the shift? Well, injuries to Namon Wright, Eli Parquet and Deleon Brown shoved him into an unfamiliar role, and Schwartz was plunged into big minutes during the Pac-12 tournament — 34 per game — and has started all 32 games for the Buffs. CU’s Dance dreams ended with a semifinal loss to Washington.

“The other thing is D’Shawn has really become a dependable and very good perimeter defender,” Boyle confirmed. “I could not have said that in November or December.”

“Defense became fun. I guess this year I’ve been challenged this year a little more to guard some better players,” said Schwartz, who listed scorers Jaylen Nowell, Ethan Thompson, Brandon Randolph and Kris Wilkes as the Pac-12’s toughest marks. “If I don’t guard somebody they’re going to make me look stupid.”

Schwartz also ditched the vegan diet he tried as a freshman, right about when Chick-fil-A showed up at the 2018 Pac-12 tournament. Doesn’t hurt there’s a Raising Cane’s just 15 minutes from his house.

“Make that trip whenever I can,” he said.

How he finds time to mix tracks is anyone’s guess. Team flights. Before bed. Weekends after games. You, too, can reap the benefits: Schwartz will perform on the 1s and 2s with Colorado-based rappers Low Hanging Fruit and Zayminor, his close friend and a Rampart grad. The show is April 18, again before a full house at the venerable Fox Theater in Boulder.

“I can’t even tell you. It’s so much fun. I love it,” he said. “Raise my hand up, the beat stops, everybody stops, the whole place goes crazy.”

Get your tickets now.

(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at paul.klee@gazette.com or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)

Sports columnist

Denver sports columnist for The Gazette

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