A decision is looming regarding the status of injured forward Xavier Johnson for the 2015-16 basketball season.
Sidelined since tearing his left Achilles tendon in late June, Johnson and Colorado Buffaloes head coach Tad Boyle have played the waiting game to see if the senior forward might be ready for the start of Pac-12 Conference play on Jan. 1, or if Johnson would be better served taking a medical redshirt season.
With league play roughly three weeks away, that deadline is fast approaching. Johnson still has not participated in full team workouts and Boyle said the team would like to have the fate of Johnson's immediate future settled by the time they leave for Las Vegas to face Penn State on Dec. 22.
"In the next week or two, based on finals and doctors' schedules, we'll have a sit-down meeting with the doctors and trainers and XJ," Boyle said. "The good thing is he's out shooting and he's working out. He's still doing his rehab work. He's not, certainly, ready to play yet but he's getting closer.
"He looks fine now but the explosiveness and the strength, that's something we want to make sure is there. As of today it's not. But hopefully in the next two weeks we'll have a better gauge of that thought process."
On the surface it seems three weeks is a small window for Johnson to round into game shape, yet he still expresses optimism he can help a Buffs team off to an impressive start at some point this season.
"I'm getting better," Johnson said. "It's all a process. The Achilles, it's one of the worst injuries possible so you just got to take it day-by-day. I don't think I'm that far off. Once I get my calf stronger, I should be able to run better. It's all a matter of getting my calf stronger. The Achilles is fine. It isn't going to tear again. I just have to heal up and keep getting better."
Boyle wouldn't commit to anything beyond the meeting with Johnson and medical personnel in the coming weeks, but certainly the extent of Johnson's role in any potential comeback will be analyzed. His 2014-15 production has more than adequately been replaced by the emergence of George King and the addition of transfer Josh Fortune on a squad that lists team chemistry as one of its early strengths. How even a fully healthy Johnson would figure into that mix is likely to be examined, as will the idea of what XJ could bring to the table, without any questions surrounding his health, during a full season in 2016-17.
"I still want to play this year if possible, but I won't risk anything that could jeopardize me for the future," Johnson said. "I definitely do want to play pro. That's my goal. If I'm not going to be 100 percent and I'm out here not playing up to my ability, that's just going to hurt me in the long run.
"Definitely big games like CSU, I wanted to be a part of that. All I can do is cheer right now. I'm just going to keep cheering and keep working."