Jersey No. 11 has always been a hallowed one at Mater Dei High School in Los Angeles. This season, it will be a deeply personal one for Colorado senior Xavier Johnson.
When Johnson hits the Coors Events Center floor Friday in the CU men's basketball team's season opener against Sacramento State, his return from a one-season injury hiatus will be marked by a jersey change. Gone is the No. 2 Johnson donned for three seasons. In its place is No. 11, a number Johnson wore in high school that he is wearing again to honor the family of a fellow Mater Dei alum.
"Max Hooper, he went to Mater Dei before me and he passed the number down to me," Johnson said. "I wore it throughout high school. His dad has been kind of sick lately, so I kind of want to do it and wear 11 again to give back to Mater Dei and to show appreciation to him and his father."
After missing last season due to a torn Achilles tendon, few CU players are as eager to get into the routine of game-planning as Johnson.
"With a game on the horizon, we focus on specifics as far as what and how their defense plays, how their offense runs," said Johnson, who needs 10 points to become the 33rd CU player to reach 1,000 career points. "We'll go through scouting reports. It's more specific to how they're going to play."
Head coach Tad Boyle made it official that freshmen Alex Strating and Dallas Walton are expected to sit on the sidelines with redshirt seasons in 2016-17.
The 7-foot Walton has displayed better feet and a softer shooting touch than previously advertised. Yet with the Buffs set at forward with Wesley Gordon, Tory Miller, and Lucas Siewert, Walton will have an opportunity to build on his relatively slight 222-pound frame.
"I spoke to Dallas Walton and Alex Strating (Tuesday) and they're both going to redshirt. That's the plan," Boyle said. "The physicality of the game, the speed of the game, and where (Walton) is in the rotation of things...he would play for us if he didn't redshirt, but his minutes would be limited."
The Buffs are 4-2 in season openers under Boyle, with a 4-0 mark at home...Gordon enters the season needing 21 rebounds to become the 11th CU player to reach 700 in his career...After facing Sacramento State for the first time ever Friday, the Buffs host Seattle on Monday in the first game of the Legends Classic.