The statistics say it was perhaps a step backwards for Colorado's George King, one of the breakout stars of the Pac-12 Conference during the 2015-16 season.

The numbers, though, don't tell the entire story. As the Buffaloes slowly turn the page on a 2016-17 season that fell short of expectations, the growth King displayed in other aspects of his game beyond scoring could set a strong example for CU's younger players as the senior-to-be takes on a larger leadership role.

"You have no choice but to learn, especially throughout a long season," King said. "I'm going to take what I learned and apply it to my game going forward."

It was a peculiar season for King, who was unable to replicate the big-time scoring ability and pinpoint 3-point shooting he displayed in 2015-16, a season that began with King returning from a redshirt year and ended with him owning the Pac-12's Most Improved Player award.

Part of King's dip in shooting can be traced to the different personnel playing alongside him this season. While in 2015-16 he was the primary 3-point threat on a team that featured a legitimate inside scoring presence in Josh Scott, this past season he was required to share perimeter shots with two players who weren't on the floor the previous year — Derrick White and Xavier Johnson. The lack of reliable inside scoring only made those open 3-point looks more scarce.


King finished with a scoring average of 11.1, down from 13.6 a year earlier, and his 3-point percentage dipped to .376 after leading the Pac-12 with a .456 mark, which also was the second-best single-season 3-point percentage in CU history. While King was able to regain his touch following a slow start in nonconference play — he shot .478 from 3-point range during the Pac-12 schedule — he finished the year by going 1-for-11 on 3-pointers in CU's three games in the league tournament and NIT.

"He's a very good catch-and-shoot guy," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "I think everybody knows that. But George knows we need more than that from him."

While King still struggles to create his own shot as well as shots for others (he had 53 careers assists in 95 games) he made an impressive step forward this past season as a rebounder, finishing with a team-leading average of 6.8 per game. King posted six double-digit rebounding games, including back-to-back career-best efforts of 13 against Notre Dame and Texas at the Legends Classic in November.

Heading into next season, no CU player will have played more minutes or taken more meaningful shots than King. One of the more disciplined workers on the team, King's voice often was shrouded on a team featuring four fifth-year seniors. Next season, King already understands his off-court role must expand.

"I just got to be the big brother on the team," King said. "The seniors are the most experienced ones. We've been around for the longest and have to take our experiences to help the young guys.

"The younger guys will outnumber us older guys, us seniors. But we're ready for the challenge. I always say freshmen are like soft clay. It's up to us older guys to mold them the right way. If we do a good job of molding them, going forward when they're seniors, they'll mold the next guys. That's how a program grows."

Pat Rooney: or