Maybe if the talented Colorado State senior Askia Booker and his fellow Buffaloes actually deserved an NCAA Tournament invite, one might understand why Booker refuses to play in the less prestigious College Basketball Invitational.
The Buffaloes finished the season two games below .500 (15-17) and a miserable 7-11 in the Pac-12. Shouldn’t they feel lucky to be invited to play in any post-season tournament?
Booker, who enjoyed a standout season as the Buff’s leading scorer, averaging 17.2 points per game, and recipient of Pac-12 all-conference Honorable Mention, told his coach and teammates that despite Colorado’s acceptance to play in the CBI, he’s not lacing up his sneakers for the tournament.
Booker, citing the need for underclassmen to log minutes in preparation for next season, maintains that playing would be “pretty much selfish.” In the same interview, he labels his choice not to participate “kind of a selfish decision” before speaking of himself in the third person.
ESPN and others rank the tournament third among college basketball’s postseason events. The NCAA tournament, of course remains the most esteemed and the NIT falls behind yet still above the CBI.
It is not uncommon that teams refuse to play in the CBI. Penn State, Florida, and Cal all did so this season. But the Buffaloes accepted the invitation. Booker as a team member refusing to play raised some eyebrows on Monday when he didn’t show up to a pre-tournament practice.
Colorado coach Tad Boyle said that he told Booker, “You realize you’re going to take some heat with this decision,’ and he shook his head like he understood.” According to the Denver Post, however, Boyle and teammates are sympathetic to the senior sitting out.
Freshman guard Dominique Collier remarked, “We feel like Ski gave his all to us this season… I just feel like probably his body was wearing down; he was playing with sore hips throughout half the season. He probably thought it would be better for us to have a look without him going into next season. I don’t think he quit on us at all.”
Boyle is not sure if Booker will attend the CBI to root for his teammates: “He’s certainly welcome to. He’s a part of our basketball family and he always will be.”