The surprising part of the first starting lineup unveiled by the University of Colorado men's basketball team Friday was not that Derrick White was given a starting nod in his first Division I game.

It was that junior guard Dom Collier, a starter in 33 of 34 games last year, was not.

Yet the early indications are the move could be a shrewd one by CU head coach Tad Boyle. Collier thrived coming off the bench and playing off the ball during Friday's season-opening win against Sacramento State, knocking down four of his first five 3-point attempts before finishing with a team-high 12 points.

Boyle informed Collier on Thursday that he would be coming off the bench, and Collier handled it like a pro.

"(Boyle) told me just to come out and be aggressive," Collier said. "And then to just be aggressive on the defense and offensive end."

Perhaps more importantly than simply bringing Collier off the bench, Boyle inserted the Denver East graduate alongside sophomore Thomas Akyazili, with whom he shared the ball-handling duties last year. Collier struggled at times in his duties as a point guard in 2015-16, particularly in Pac-12 Conference play, ultimately finishing with 40 assists and 38 turnovers in 18 league games.

By playing alongside Akyazili, Collier wasn't solely responsible for running the CU offense.


"The thing that makes Dom so dangerous off the ball is that we have sets where we're setting ball-screens for our guys off the ball. It's not just for our point guards," Boyle said. "(White) has got great size. In transition he's really, really good pushing it, knowing when to push and when to pull it back. Four assists and no turnovers, that's the norm for Derrick White.

"To have Dom, a guy like him that can play on the ball and play off the ball, just makes him a dual threat. Dom's one of our best shooters. We want him shooting the ball."

The ball-handling struggles that often seemed glaring in a number of games last year in which the Buffs squandered late leads often overshadowed the tremendous strides Collier made as a shooter. After going just 18-for-67 from 3-point range as a freshman, Collier compiled a .444 3-point mark (40-for-90) that ranked second in the league behind teammate George King. Being free of the bulk of the ball-handling duties will allow Collier to play to his strengths as a shooter.

"Whether Dom starts or comes off the bench, it doesn't matter," Boyle said. "I thought he showed great focus when he came in. He was ready to play and it showed."

The Buffs return to action Monday night at home against Seattle in the first game of the Legends Classic.

Pat Rooney: or