For a Colorado men's basketball team that has struggled with consistency and putting together a full 40-minute game, the good news is that reinforcements are on the way.
Sidelined since the first game of the season due to a stress fracture in his left foot, junior guard Dominique Collier has begun going through basketball drills with the Buffaloes. Collier optimistically expressed hope he would be ready to return for Monday's road date at Air Force, but a more realistic target date might be CU's Pac-12 Conference opener at Utah on New Year's Day.
"I'm feeling a lot better from where it was four weeks ago or five weeks ago," Collier said. "Just started doing some light shooting (Wednesday) and it feels fine."
Collier played through pain in his foot through much of the preseason and turned in a solid season debut against Sacramento State, making 4-of-6 3-pointers and leading the Buffs with 12 points. But afterward the foot pain returned with interest, and after going 0-for-1 in just seven minutes in the second game against Seattle, Collier traded his new role off the bench for a walking boot on his left foot.
"The second game, when we played Seattle, it was just real sore," Collier said. "I just couldn't run and cut the way I wanted to. The next morning I got an MRI on it and found out I had to cracks in a bone. It was real encouraging to see the ball go in that first game and to get the win. But then it was frustrating because I couldn't run the way I wanted to. In the game it hurt even worse."
A starter in 33 of 34 games last season as CU's primary point guard, head coach Tad Boyle's decision to begin the year by bringing Collier's outside shooting touch off the bench while starting Derrick White as the point guard presented an intriguing new opportunity for Collier. At times as a sophomore Collier struggled running the offense, but he displayed a vastly improved outside shooting touch, finishing second in the Pac-12 to teammate George King with a .444 mark on 3-pointers.
Collier looked as if he might thrive as a shooter off the bench when he was abruptly sidelined. Collier's return will give the Buffs another solid ball-handler and free throw shooter to utilize late in close games, and he could provide a spark for a club that is shooting just .338 from 3-point range after leading the Pac-12 last year at .389. Exclude Collier's first-game efforts, and CU's 3-point percentage this season drops to .328.
"It's been frustrating because I just want to go out there and do anything I can to help my teammates, whatever way that is," Collier said. "I've learned a lot just sitting and watching and I'm looking forward to playing again. In terms of point guard stuff, I've learned how to be patient coming off of ball screens. Just watching how our offense operates from the bench perspective, I've been able to come back and tell them what I've noticed."