CU men's basketball preview: Northern Colorado

MATCHUP: Northern Colorado Bears (1-4) at Colorado Buffaloes (4-1).

GAME TIME: Sunday, 1 p.m., Coors Events Center.

BROADCAST: Radio — 760 AM (also 1310 AM in Greeley); TV — Pac-12 Networks.

COACHES: UNC: BJ Hill, sixth season (77-66 at UNC and overall); Colorado: Tad Boyle, sixth season (104-69, 168-135 overall).

LEADERS: UNC — Scoring: G Anthony Johnson, Jr., 17.2 ppg; Rebounding: G Cameron Michael, Jr., 6.3 rpg; Assists: G Jordan Wilson, Jr., 3.4 apg. Colorado — Scoring: G George King, So., 18.2 ppg; Rebounding: F Josh Scott, Sr., 8.8 rpg; Assists: G Dom Collier, So., 2.4 apg.

NOTABLE: Hill originally was hired at UNC by Boyle in 2006 and took over the program in 2010 when Boyle moved to CU ... After going 5-for-16 from the floor in a season-opening loss against Iowa State, Scott has made 24-of-31 shots during the Buffs' four-game win streak ... CU has won seven consecutive matchups against the Bears.

George King was a physical anomaly.

When he arrived at the University of Colorado, King was a dominant post player who nonetheless could not bench press his own weight.

While it hardly is unusual to learn dominant collegiate wing players once locked down the paint for their high school teams, it still has been difficult to watch the sculpted, long-armed King during his season-opening explosion for the CU men's basketball team and picture a young athlete struggling to compete physically.


Advertisement

It's just two weeks into the 2015-16 season, yet King already has morphed from a huge question mark into a breakout star for the Buffaloes heading into Sunday afternoon's home battle against in-state rival Northern Colorado. A secret no more, the extra time King spent on the practice floor and in the weight room during last year's redshirt season clearly is paying dividends.

"I came in my freshman year at about 200 pounds and I couldn't even bench my weight," King said. "Now I'm about 225, and I'm maxing out at 265 on the bench. That's a lot for a basketball player. My squat, it's still not great, but it's improved. My body fat has gone down, my weight has gone up. I credit that to Laura (Anderson), our nutritionist, and obviously our strength and conditioning coach, James Hardy."

A post player who was required to outlet the ball the moment he grabbed any rebound for Brennan High School in San Antonio, Texas, King appeared in 27 games as a true freshman two years ago but contributed minimally, averaging about 5.5 minutes and 1.5 points per game while adjusting his game to playing away from the basket.

Head coach Tad Boyle proposed the somewhat unorthodox notion of having King redshirt his second year, instead of during the more customary first year on campus. Though it was an unusual approach, both Boyle and Hardy noted that often it helps young players to get a true taste of the competition at the next level before understanding the level of commitment required to not only compete, but thrive.

"If you redshirt them as a freshman, they don't know what college basketball is all about," Boyle said. "They haven't been exposed. They haven't been on the road. They don't know what their weaknesses are. They play their freshman year and they find out, 'Hey, I'm not very good defensively. My jump shot, I've got to get it off quicker at this level.'

"They find out where those weaknesses are in their game their freshman year. So then their redshirt year, they can work on those things they know they have to work on. If they'd never gone through that, they don't know what their weaknesses are."

Reaching new thresholds in the weight room is one thing. Applying that sort of newfound strength on the court is another, yet King has done so admirably. Through five games, King is averaging 18.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per game while shooting .480 (12-for-25) from 3-point range and .500 overall. His still-unfolding breakout season includes a 27-point eruption to lead a road comeback against Auburn and a 3-for-4 mark from 3-point range in Wednesday's win against Air Force.

"For him, he had to put on some size. He's a solid 220 now," Hardy said. "George was easy to work with. Very respectful. Does a very good job in the weight room. Does what you ask him to do.

"When you redshirt, the guys lift about two times a week, but he would lift two more times, depending on the schedule. A lot of basketball players don't lift a lot in high school. George is actually a good case. A lot of freshmen ... they don't really comprehend the caliber of athlete they're playing against when they get to the Pac-12. George was able to get in the lion's den and realize that he did have to become a more physical presence on the court."

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