A tough season for Deleon Brown has grown a little bit tougher.

Early last week, Brown suffered a right ankle injury that will keep him out of practice for at least the next few weeks. After getting removed from the Colorado basketball rotation once it was learned he would be academically ineligible for the second semester, Brown was just growing accustomed to his role as a practice player when struck by his latest setback.

Relegated to sitting at the end of the bench in street clothes for home games while being forced to remain home during road games, the junior guard won't even be able to pitch in at practice for the foreseeable future.

"It is frustrating," Brown said. "Obviously you prefer playing to not playing. I'm still adjusting to it right now. I guess I was just in a little bit of a hole. The biggest part is not being out there with the guys. There's practice, but come game time I want to be...the competitive nature in me wants to help out as much as I can, and that part hurts. I'm still trying to help the guys as much as I can in my current situation."

Brown played in 54 games with 10 starts during his first two seasons with the Buffs, and head coach Tad Boyle has said Brown's experience and solid perimeter defense had him in line for a starting job at the outset of the season.


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However, Brown's academic issues prompted Boyle to sit him for the preseason exhibition game against Colorado Mines as well as the season opener against Drake. Brown returned for the next nine games, averaging 4.1 points with a .324 field goal percentage and a .300 3-point percentage. While it was a small sample size, those shooting figures were the lowest of Brown's career.

Once the first semester grades were posted and Brown's fate was sealed, Boyle opted to send him to the bench six games earlier than required. CU's head coach lauded the way Brown adjusted to his practice role while reiterating his future with the program remains in limbo.

"Del is invaluable to us in practice," Boyle said prior to Brown's injury. "Del has reacted very, very well. I couldn't be more proud of him in terms of what he brings to the court every day, in terms of energy and effort. He competes. He's like playing against a Pac-12...he's a Pac-12 level player. He's been good. His mid-term grade report will be highly anticipated.

"He has reacted well. I have no problems with Del. The whole thing with Deleon Brown is, can the University of Colorado basketball program depend on him? The answer to that right now is, we don't know. Those are decisions that have yet to be made."

Brown declined to elaborate when asked about his future with the program, beyond addressing the immediate concern regarding his grades.

"I'm focusing on my academics," Brown said. "If I don't get that taken care of everything is out the window. First things first, I have to take care of my academics."

What to watch

The Buffs didn't do much right in a 22-point loss at Arizona State on Jan. 5. The Sun Devils enter the rematch Wednesday night in Boulder (8:30 p.m., FS1) leading the Pac-12 Conference in defensive field goal percentage in league games (.410) while ranking second in rebound margin (plus-4.7).

In short, the Buffs likely will have to take advantage of whatever good looks they can muster, because chances are there won't be too many opportunities at second-chance points.

"The main thing is boxing out and rebounding. Holding their big men to below their averages," CU guard D'Shawn Schwartz said. "We got killed on the boards last time. Keeping their drivers out of the paint. That's our main things."

Notable

CU's Jan. 5 loss at ASU was the Buffs' first game without lone senior Namon Wright, who recently underwent season-ending foot surgery. Wright played briefly three games later at Utah but otherwise didn't play again...In Pac-12 play, CU backup forward Evan Battey is shooting .547 (29-for-53)...From CU's media relations staff: With just 10 home games so far, the Buffs began the week tied for second with Tulane for the fewest in the nation among teams in Power 5 conferences, the Big East, and the American Athletic Conference. Stanford (9) has played the nation's fewest home games.

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