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Throughout the first half of the 2013-14 season, the University of Colorado men’s basketball team has succeeded under the leadership of head coach Tad Boyle and the experience of the three resident senior players: Ben Mills, Kevin Nelson and Beau Gamble.
Mills, Colorado’s only center, joined the team as a freshman in 2010 and has been a Buff longer than any other current player.
“Every single year it’s gotten better,” Mills said. “My freshman year we started off slow, and then at the end of the season, the Coors Events Center was packed. Now that’s a standard every year. Tickets were sold out at the beginning of the year, and I expect that to be a tradition from now on.”
As a senior member of a very young team, Mills has taken on a leadership role, often rallying his fellow Buffs at practice.
“The last two seasons haven’t been [very] productive in my individual stats, but going into the Pac-12 with the experience I’ve got will help a lot,” Mills said. “I think all the experience our guys have got will help a lot.”
Senior guard Kevin Nelson has only been a Buff for two years, transferring from Missouri State University West Plains. He did not play at all last year after breaking his right ankle. But Nelson has seen the same trend with Buffaloes basketball that Mills saw when he first arrived.
“[The program] was already on the rise when I got here with the team before,” Nelson said. “We just continue to build on success every year. It keeps growing.”
Nelson believes that his experience with two different teams helps him lead the younger Buffs on and off the court.
“I think that’s one thing that I bring is that I’m older,” Nelson said. “I’ve been on good teams before so I know what it takes to be a good team, so I think I can bring that to the table.”
Beau Gamble, also a senior guard, has been with the Colorado family for three seasons. After transferring from Santa Clara University in 2010, he was forced to sit out for his first season due to NCAA rules.
“Long story short, Coach Boyle was the head coach at Northern Colorado, and he recruited me there when I was in high school,” Gamble said. “He got the head coaching job here, and I always wanted to be a CU Buff, so when the opportunity arose for me to walk on here, I took it.”
He may not play much, but that doesn’t stop Gamble from enjoying every minute he’s had with the team.
“Obviously, it’s been crazy,” Gamble said. “I’ve seen back-to-back NCAA tournaments, a Pac-12 championship, sold-out games to opponents that aren’t even ranked. It’s been amazing.”
Gamble, like Mills and Nelson, is comfortable with his position as a leader on the team.
“I’m twenty-two years old and a lot of these guys are eighteen, so I just feel that naturally, I’m a little more mature than these guys,” he said. “I’ve been here since [Askia Booker] and Spencer [Dinwiddie] have been here, and Ben, so it’s really us four who have been here the longest. We’ve been through everything, so a lot of times the guys come to us to ask for advice or a lot of times we can go to them.”
With Pac-12 conference play just beginning, the three seniors are excited for what the rest of the season will bring.
“It’s going to be fun,” Gamble said. “We’re going to find out how good we really are, and the Pac-12′s tough this year.”
Mills thinks the Buffs will be able to live up to the expectations and keep up with the challenge of conference play.
“We’re ready for the Pac-12, and I think we’re going to do really well,” Mills said.
Going into conference play, the Buffaloes boasted an 11-2 record with the seventh-toughest schedule in the country, according to the CBS Sports ratings percentage index (RPI) rankings.
They started Pac-12 play on a high note, taking down Oregon State 64-58, and upset 10th-ranked Oregon 100-91 on Jan. 5.
In the middle of his last season, Mills has advice for his younger teammates.
“Don’t take anything for granted just because of how fast it goes,” Mills said. “It’s been the fastest four years of my life, and I just hope they enjoy it as much as I have.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Alissa Noe at firstname.lastname@example.org.