Paul Klee: Athletes should be role models, and Sand Creek's D'Shawn Schwartz can be one for Colorado Buffaloes

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Photo - Sand Creek D'Shawn Schwartz goes in for a layup during the Vista Ridge and Sand Creek boys basketball game at Vista Ridge High School on Wednesday, January 27, 2016. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette.
Sand Creek D'Shawn Schwartz goes in for a layup during the Vista Ridge and Sand Creek boys basketball game at Vista Ridge High School on Wednesday, January 27, 2016. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette.

BOULDER — D’Shawn Schwartz is the rare 18-year-old college freshman you don’t really worry about.

Coaches love those. Who doesn’t? His grades were spotless, evidenced by a 4.1 GPA at Sand Creek. He's devoted to a pastime of mixing beats on his laptop, no small commitment given the time demands of a college athlete with a full courseload. After watching the Netflix documentary “What the Health?” he’s also gone vegan, opting for oatmeal and fruit at breakfast and a veggie burger at dinnertime while maintaining his weight at a steady 223 pounds.

“Knowing exactly what I put in my body is really important to me,” Schwartz said.

My guy doesn’t even qualify as low maintenance. He’s no maintenance.

“Great, great kid,” CU coach Tad Boyle said. Really, when I sat down to consider what factors could derail Schwartz’s path to All-Pac-12 honors — down the road, of course, since he’s only a freshman — only two worries came to mind: the omnipresent Boulder party scene that has sidetracked more than one Buffs athlete, or the pressures of staying home for college.

Well, I’m happy to report Schwartz has attended two house parties since he arrived at CU. His appraisal: “Just not my thing. Never has been.” Cross that one off the list.

That leaves the pressures of staying home. Yes, that’s a thing. It’s a bigger thing here in Colorado, where the relative scarcity of homegrown stars turns up the spotlight an extra bulb on the ones we do have.

Ask Dom Collier. He’s a key in the grooming of D’Shawn Schwartz. Collier doesn't know it, but it was watching the then-Denver East point guard play in the state title game at Coors Events Center that turned Schwartz's attention to CU. If Schwartz needs a form response when folks back in the Springs inquire why he’s not playing 35 minutes per game, he can find Collier for advice. If he wants to know what to say when long-lost cousins need tickets, just find Dom. 

There’s no better resource than a man who lived your life before you did. Collier’s a true-blue Colorado guy with the “Mile High City” tattoo on his right calf to prove it.

“I felt that pressure at the beginning of my career,” said Collier, who arrived at CU as a two-time Mr. Colorado Basketball, a state champion and with as much local buzz as any Buff since Chauncey Billups.

Denver East (Collier) or Sand Creek (Schwartz), there’s really no difference at this point. The expectations of a local guy are inherently intense. So is the responsibility of building and leaving behind a positive legacy.

“Pressure here? Yeah, I feel it,” said Schwartz, a 6-foot-7 small forward wearing “0” for the Buffs. “I already know these first few games are all Colorado teams. Everybody I know is going to be here for those games. Everybody’s got something to say. But it comes with the territory.”

See, he’s sharp. Those first few games — against Colorado School of Mines (an exhibition game on Monday), Northern Colorado (a game the Buffs could lose) and the University of Denver — are merely the beginning of a local-guy process that's not as easy it sounds.

This is the part of the column where I tell you how good Schwartz is going to be at CU. I believe that’s true, that it will be a surprise if the scoring touch that carried him into tryouts for U.S.A. Basketball’s U17 World Championships squad doesn’t translate into a top-10 spot in CU’s career scoring list when it's all over. Last week in practice, Schwartz scored this devilish, flippy, hook shot over 7-foot center Dallas Walton, a Colorado guy from Arvada West, that looked like the handiwork of a fifth-year senior.

Every valuable college player needs his one thing, and Schwartz’s is scoring. The green light test — I don’t know if that’s actually the name, but it's the name we'll give it — is something the Buffs conduct for players who fancy themselves as scorers. It’s 10 shots from five different spots on the court. Over five days, you must make 35 of 50 shots. Schwartz began the process 4-for-4 and threatened to become the first Buff to accomplish the feat in his first five attempts. He settled on 5-for-7, earning the green light nonetheless.

All of that is enough to be excited about Schwartz, the basketball player, at CU. Know what’s even better? He’s the kind of 18-year-old college freshman who can be anything he wants to be.

Twitter: @bypaulklee