Young Buffs try to rebound after missing tournament year ago
BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — The Colorado Buffaloes rode bikes on a sightseeing excursion through the streets of Florence, Italy, during a basketball trip over the summer. They recently played some spirited paintball, too.
Anything to hasten the chemistry on a roster that includes eight freshmen.
To spice things up in practice, there’s also this: No starting spots are guaranteed. To anyone. Not even senior guard George King , who started 32 games last season, or fellow floor leader Dominique Collier.
“I want our players to feel like there is playing time to be earned,” coach Tad Boyle said. “There’s no entitlement.”
The Buffaloes are coming off a 19-15 season in which they failed to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament for just the third time in seven seasons under Boyle. Gone is leading scorer Derrick White, who’s now with the San Antonio Spurs.
Incoming: A whole bunch of new faces.
That’s why the Buffaloes went to Italy over the summer, to gain some team cohesion. The 11-day, four-game tour included stops in Rome, Florence, Venice and Como. In addition, the NCAA allowed for 10 practice days for the foreign trip.
“We knew we were going to lose a lot of experience and firepower last year so the Italy trip was critical,” Boyle said. “It was good for us. We learned a lot. But it’s in the rearview mirror. It’s onward and upward from here.”
While this team may be young, don’t use the term “rebuilding” in front of King.
“We know we will be slept on this year,” King said . “We have the type of guys that will take being written off to their advantage, with that chip on their shoulder.”
Being selected ninth in the conference during the recent Pac-12 media poll only adds fuel to the fire.
“If our guys don’t have an edge after that, I don’t know what will create that,” Boyle said.
Things to know before the season opener Nov. 10 against Northern Colorado:
WHAT’S IN A NAME: Last season, he was Tory Miller. Now, he’s Tory Miller-Stewart — a way to honor his mom and family. Another name isn’t all the 6-foot-9 forward added as he’s returned more menacing on the boards.
“He’s rebounding the ball better than he’s ever rebounded the ball,” Boyle said. “Hopefully this can be a breakout year.”
NEW COACH: Colorado assistant coach Kim English is only a few years removed from his playing days. After a career at Missouri from 2008-12, he was taken by the Detroit Pistons with the 44th pick of the 2012 draft. He played in 41 games during the 12-13 season and then spent two years overseas.
So, if a coach needs to show the players a thing or two, he’s the one that draws the assignment.
“He’s young enough and in shape enough where he could jump in there and demonstrate,” Boyle said. “Coach English is a young coach who’s growing, but he has a chance to be really special.”
BIDING HIS TIME: Guard Namon Wright is raring to go after sitting out a season following his transfer from Missouri.
“I’ve just been toning my game, trying to work on everything, and staying focused on both ends of the floor,” Wright said. “I can be a good catch-and-shooter, a good driver, solid defender, a great rebounder, and a great teammate.”
STANDING OUT: One of the freshmen that’s caught Boyle’s eye is McKinley Wright IV, a 6-foot guard out of Minnesota.
To think, the Buffs got in late on him. When Bryce Peters elected not to return and Thomas Akyazili went back to Belgium, the Buffaloes needed another guard. That’s when McKinley re-entered the picture.
“It was a pretty quick recruiting process, but I can’t tell you how fortunate we are to have him here,” Boyle said. “I think if you asked McKinley, he feels very fortunate to be at a place like Colorado.”
Freshman forward Evan Battey will take an academic redshirt year this season.
RESCHEDULED TRIP: Colorado’s trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam was moved to Lynchburg, Virginia. Tournament directors announced the move when the event needed to be relocated from the U.S. Virgin Islands due to damage from Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.
Colorado opens against Quinnipiac on Friday, Nov. 17.
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