During an otherwise routine practice last week for the Colorado men's basketball team, Josh Fortune displayed a talent coach Tad Boyle hopes will soon help change the fortunes of the Buffs' prowess from long range.
With a defender shadowing Fortune at his hip, the junior guard coolly stepped back to launch a fadeaway baseline jumper from just inside the 3-point arc. Fortune hit nothing but net.
After two seasons of subpar performances from 3-point range, the addition of Fortune to the Buffs' rotation should not only reverse that trend, but also help CU fill the scoring slack left by the loss of the team's top scorer from 2014-15.
While Fortune practiced with the Buffs last year after transferring from Providence, he admits there is more zest in his step this fall knowing he finally will be able to contribute after sitting on the sideline for a season per NCAA transfer rules.
"It was hard, but I knew what I was signing up for," Fortune said. "It's a good feeling to finally be able to get going. I thought all along this was going to be a good fit for me. It was hard seeing the guys struggle at times last year but I think I can bring something to the mix."
Fortune, who averaged 8.4 points while starting all 35 games for a Providence squad that won the Big East Conference tournament in 2014, is one of three players Boyle has cited as being integral to picking up the scoring punch for the Buffs.
CU graduated leading scorer Askia Booker (17.2 points a game) and will be without Xavier Johnson (10.3) until at least Pac-12 Conference play, if not the entire season, due to a torn Achilles tendon. That's roughly 40 percent of the offense lost from a team that averaged 69 points a game a year ago.
While Fortune hopes to shore up the Buffs' 3-point shooting — CU has produced the lowest pair of 3-point percentages of Boyle's five previous seasons during the past two years — CU's coach also is confident of getting additional punch from junior swingman Tre'Shaun Fletcher and redshirt sophomore guard George King.
"One of our deficiencies last year was outside shooting, and I think Josh Fortune is going to help with that. Without a doubt," Boyle said. "The other Achilles' heel we had last year was turnovers. That's an area Josh has to be conscious of with taking care of the basketball and making good decisions. But he's a good player."
King sat out last season to hone his game as a redshirt and has already displayed improved ball-handling skills during the first week of preseason workouts. Fletcher averaged 5.4 points last season and led the Buffs with a .458 percentage from 3-point range, albeit in limited chances (22 for 48). Boyle has expressed optimism that Fletcher will display more of the play-making skills that originally intrigued CU's coach on the recruiting trail.
"I definitely think I can help with that (scoring) aspect," Fletcher said. "Along with rebounding, because XJ brought a lot of that. I think I can pick up on that void, too. I know I turned the ball over a lot last year. Just making smart decisions, making quick decisions. I'm trying to pick up on stuff like that."