Coming out of Denver East, Daylen Kountz was an All-Colorado selection in 2018 when he was widely viewed as the top high school basketball recruit in the state.
But after signing with CU, Kountz never fulfilled his potential. He logged only 15 minutes per game across his first two seasons, averaging 4.3 points per game as a backup point guard.
The lack of traction at CU — and the likelihood of Keeshawn Barthelemy taking over as the Buffs’ starting point guard next season if McKinley Wright doesn’t return — prompted Kountz’s transfer to Northern Colorado, where first-year Bears coach Steve Smiley believes Kountz can emerge as an impact player in the Big Sky Conference.
“We want him to be a guy who can really be aggressive, be a scorer, be a slasher and do a lot of different things for us where he puts a lot of pressure on the defense,” Smiley said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s going to be a guy in our league who’s going to be very productive and go out and get you 20 points on any given night.”
Kountz heads to Greeley with two seasons of eligibility remaining, although he will have to sit out the 2020-21 season due to NCAA transfer rules unless he gets a waiver. The 20-year-old also considered Weber State and Loyola Chicago as potential destinations but cited his comfort with UNC as a primary factor in his choice.
“From the first day I got in the transfer portal I was talking to Smiley basically every day,” Kountz said. “On top of that, Sam (Masten) and Bode (Hume) play there, so I have a relationship with them going back from my days with the Colorado Hawks. That made the decision a little easier. I felt like that program was the place to be.”
Masten, a former Rock Canyon star who was part of the same All-Colorado team as Kountz, believes his former club teammate is going “to be more motivated than ever to come in and prove a lot of people wrong.”
“All the people who doubted him because of some ups-and-downs at CU, the coaches who didn’t think he was ready to step on the floor more there (in the future) — that’s going to drive him,” Masten said. “I’m counting on him coming in a lot more hungry than I’ve ever seen him, which is good, because that fits the mold of our team.”
Along with Masten, the Bears’ corps of returning guards is rounded out by Matt Johnson, a Rangeview product, as well as Tre-Shon Smoots and Greg Bowie II. If he can play this winter, Kountz will figure to compete for a role alongside all of those players, as well as a few freshmen.
“The beauty of Daylen, and the beauty of a lot of those guys, is you can’t really box them into one position,” Smiley said. “Daylen can be a one (guard), a two or a three for us. We like to get multi-positional guards who can play in different spots and Daylen fits that on both ends of the floor.”
And despite Kountz’s lack of scoring at CU, Smiley is hoping a change of scenery will enable him to re-find his identity. He averaged 23.2 points as a senior in high school.
“I believe he’s a better shooter than his percentages this past year (at 33 percent),” Smiley said. “As his role decreased, he was probably pressing a little bit and his numbers went down. But I do believe he can shoot consistently.”
Masten also expressed confidence in Kountz emerging as a scoring threat at UNC.
“Throughout the years, he’s proven to be able to score in so many different ways,” Masten said. “He can finish at the rim. He’ll fit in with what we try to do, just being so guard-heavy and playing through him a lot.”
And a bumpy start to his college career doesn’t mean the 6-foot-4, 190-pound Kountz has given up on his ultimate dream of playing professionally. He’ll need to play well at UNC to buoy his chances of reaching that goal.
“The biggest thing after school is I ultimately want to play overseas or professionally in some way,” Kountz said. “As far as the next couple years at UNC, I want to help us to win a league title and try to make it to the NCAA tournament.”
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