Celebrating Colorado Seniors Sabatino Chen and Shane Harris-TunksPosted by PBaruh on March 9th, 2013
This week the Pac-12 microsite is celebrating many of the seniors around the league. Today: Colorado’s Sabatino Chen and Shane Harris-Tunks.
When Sabatino Chen transferred from Denver to Colorado, there was no excitement. He wasn’t Carlon Brown. He was the local kid down the road in Louisville who averaged a minuscule 2.5 points per game in his time there. But Chen transferred to Colorado at an opportune time as Tad Boyle created a new brand of basketball and was open to letting anyone who was willing to work hard play for him. Chen was at best, however, expected to be a role player for the Buffs.
Chen averaged only nine minutes per game in his first season in Boulder, yet he brought everything that didn’t show up in the box score. He was the guy everyone hated if he wasn’t on your team. He was a defensive pest, tirelessly diving for loose balls. Offensively, he struggled. He’d cross over from right to left and try to get up a left-handed layup where it would seemingly always get blocked; or spin in the lane and throw up an out of control attempt. Nonetheless, Chen continued to work hard and prepared for his senior year.
As he plays his last game Saturday against Oregon State, Chen has become one of the more memorable players from this year’s team. Entering the season, heralded freshman Xavier Johnson was expected to start, but Chen surprisingly took the spot. Many were skeptical about his abilities, but he proved everyone wrong. In his senior campaign, Chen is averaging 4.5 points in 23 minutes per game, but his defense has improved greatly and he’s had four games with multiple steals in conference play. His offense is no longer a problem either, as evident by games of 15, 12, and 1o points. He’s been able to hit the occasional three and also can drive the lane with more control and a better ability to score with both hands. Above all, the fact still remains that Chen has continued to provide composure and a hard-working demeanor while on the floor. The effort is always there and you won’t see him giving discouraging looks to Tad Boyle. When he was benched midway through the season in favor of Johnson, he didn’t complain — he just handled it the way a senior should.
Ultimately, Chen is a reminder of the greatness of college basketball. He’s never been the most talented guy on the floor, but there’s no one out there who will work harder to win a game. Sabatino Chen will be remembered at Colorado as a symbol of determination and grit, and he has become a consistent contributor for Colorado in this, his senior season.
After Colorado’s win over Oregon Thursday night, the school announced that Shane Harris-Tunks will graduate from Colorado and will leave after this season despite his classification as a junior. Harris-Tunks is the last recruit of the Jeff Bzdelik era, and was often the most criticized Buffalo on the team. Coming from Australia, the 6’11″ center had potential as someone with a strong interior defensive presence, good passing for a big man, and the ability to score inside. However, his time at Colorado wasn’t as promising as expected after he tore his ACL in the 2010-11 season, drastically changing his career trajectory.
Returning from surgery, Harris-Tunks certainly didn’t show nearly as much mobility or jumping ability. He would drop passes inside, miss easy layups and struggle defensively. His departure therefore will likely be supported by most of Colorado fans. That fact, however, should not take away from the contributions that Harris-Tunks did make. Without the center last season, the Buffs likely wouldn’t have won four games in four days to capture the Pac-12 Tournament championship. His six rebounds were crucial in the title game against Arizona and he played 10 strong minutes against Oregon in the quarterfinals to help Colorado get past the Ducks. This year, they likely wouldn’t have beaten Colorado State without his defense on Colton Iverson in addition to his seven points in 13 minutes. Furthermore, his defense on Kaleb Tarczewski in the Buffs’ home win over Arizona was also critical as he helped hold Tarczewski to only six points.
Harris-Tunks’ overreaction to calls and his inability to successfully get up and down the floor won’t be missed, but his jump hook, solid defense against other bigs and his passes to the cutters will be. For a backup center, Harris-Tunks was competent at his position and that’s really all Colorado ever needed.