Lucas Siewert might still be learning what it takes to play basketball at a Pac-12 Conference-caliber level, with a mix of missed assignments and rookie mistakes typical of freshmen surely in his near future.

Physically, however, Siewert already appears more than capable of holding his own against anyone.

On Friday, the Colorado Buffaloes men's basketball team opens the 2016-17 season at home against Sacramento State. This year's crop of freshmen — Siewert, Bryce Peters, Deleon Brown, Dallas Walton, and Alex Strating — are expected to play a complementary role among a cast of veterans, with Walton and Strating already tentatively ticketed for redshirt seasons.

In the case of Siewert, his status as the only other true post player behind senior Wesley Gordon and junior Tory Miller meant his services probably were going to be needed to a certain extent, even as a rookie. Yet as preseason workouts give way to the routine of game-planning this week, CU head coach Tad Boyle reports no Buffs player has exceeded expectations quite like Siewert.

"Lucas Siewert is, at this point, probably the most pleasant surprise," Boyle said. "He is unbelievably coachable. He gets in here on his own and is in the gym shooting. He's going to be a terrific player. I couldn't be happier with where he is. He's definitely played his way into the rotation. He's a good player and a guy that has really progressed from the start of practice as well as any player in our program."


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At 6-foot-10, Siewert checks in as the Buffs' tallest player among those ticketed for the rotation, edging both Gordon and Miller by an inch. Yet at 221 pounds, Siewert predictably is more than 20 pounds lighter than either of CU's veteran forwards.

That gap is closing fast, however. Boyle lauded the work Siewert put in over the summer with strength and conditioning coach Steve Englehart in preparation for the jump from high school to Division I basketball.

"He did a great job with coach Englehart in the weight room this summer, then went back to L.A. and got bigger and stronger," Boyle said. "He's done a really good job working on his body from the end of the season ended last year in high school to now. Lucas, he's ahead of schedule."

A player who averaged 23 points and eight rebounds as a senior at Cathedral High School in Los Angeles, Siewert still has a ways to go before being relied upon as a defensive stopper in the paint. Yet on the occasions Boyle opts to go with two post players on the floor, pairing Siewert and his outside shooting skills alongside either Gordon or Miller could be a useful ploy in opening driving lanes for CU's array of wing players.

"Personally, I feel like I've improved and gotten a lot better," Siewert said. "The coaches are talking to me about defense. The speed of the game, the physicality, just knowing where I'm at in the system and knowing my role, stuff like that I've gotten better at. I'm getting excited. In the scrimmages I played more than I expected and I think I'm going to fit in."

Pat Rooney: rooneyp@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/prooney07