BOULDER — Beau Gamble is a sort of freshman whisperer.
The former Fairview High School standout thrives in his role of challenging starters Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie on the court every day in practice to make them better players.
Behind the scenes, Gamble has also tried to take Colorado’s six true freshmen under his wing this season.
And when Gamble, a walk-on, speaks to the Buffs’ highly touted 2012 class … well, Xavier Johnson has been listening.
“It’s Beau Gamble who gets me pumped before the games,” Johnson said before recording his first career double-double (18 points, 12 rebounds) during CU’s 81-71 win over Cal on Sunday.
Gamble redshirted last season after transferring back home to Boulder from Santa Clara. The 6-foot guard practiced with the memorable 24-win NCAA Tournament team and looked up to seniors Carlon Brown, Austin Dufault and Nate Tomlinson.
At times this season, the CU locker room in the Coors Events Center might as well have been Norlin Library.
Sabatino Chen, the only senior in the program, and Andre Roberson, the team’s best player, are both soft spoken young men who like to lead by example.
“I remember how much Nate and Carlon and A.D. meant to us last year and I remember a lot of things they used to say in this locker room,” Gamble said. “This locker room was a little quiet this year. So I felt like if I can’t play a big role on the court, I’m going to try to do my best being a vocal leader in the locker room.”
Gamble is a sophomore in eligibility but he is also well traveled. After graduating from Fairview in 2009, he spent a year at New Hampton Prep in New Hampshire before walking on at Santa Clara for the 2010-11 season.
On Saturday Gamble hopes to celebrate his 22nd birthday as part of a Buffs victory at Utah.
“I try to help out all of the freshmen because I’ve been around,” Gamble said. “I may not be on the court all the time with those guys, but I try to encourage all those guys.”
Two true freshmen, Wesley Gordon and Chris Jenkins, are redshirting and play on the scout team with Gamble.
Eli Stalzer and Xavier Talton are role players who are getting limited minutes behind Booker and Dinwiddie.
Josh Scott, CU’s gifted 6-10 forward, is already dealing with double teams from Pac-12 defenses and mature beyond his years.
“If I want to have a conversation with Josh, he’s not going to lose his temper or be like, ‘No, I’m not listening to that,'” Gamble said. “We’ve had some guys who have lost their heads in practice. Josh Scott has never lost his head in practice. He’s always sound, on and off the court.”
Which leaves Johnson — a 6-6 wing all of Boyle’s peers would love to have on their roster — as Gamble’s star protege.
Johnson’s physical tools were obvious to everyone the day he stepped on campus.
Recently, Gamble seems to have been able to push some motivational buttons the coaching staff may have missed early in the season.
“What I’ve noticed is Xavier Johnson has been playing well and listening to me and taking me seriously,” Gamble said. “I relate a lot of things back to Xavier. I feel like I give him a lot of extra encouragement and he feeds off it better than the other freshmen do.”
During CU’s current three-game winning streak, Johnson has averaged 14.3 points and 6.3 rebounds.
“Xavier Johnson has proven to be a really nice freshman,” Cal’s Mike Montgomery said on this week’s Pac-12 coaches teleconference.
Johnson said nothing has changed with his game. So what has the freshman whisperer noticed?
“He’s playing harder,” Gamble said. “I remember the beginning of the season when we played Dayton, he was playing hard to get minutes. I think the minutes were always coming because coach needed him to play, but you weren’t seeing the numbers.
“Now he’s playing with a 100-percent motor instead of a 90-percent or an 80-percent motor.”
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