Dallas Walton did his best to just soak it all in.
Walton, the 7-foot freshman from the Colorado men's basketball team, was given a redshirt season to merely observe what it takes to compete at the Division I level. And while there isn't a player around who wouldn't prefer to be on the floor, Walton already was well-versed in how to make the most of one's time on the sideline.
Consecutive knee injuries in high school robbed Walton of all but his senior season at Arvada West, and even then he played in less than peak form. As his chance to contribute for the Buffaloes finally draws nearer, Walton believes he is more than ready to put his season-long lessons and observations into play.
"Compared to where I was I think I've made significant strides just getting used to the pace," Walton said. "It's a lot faster than what I was used to playing. Getting stronger. Getting healthier as well, getting more comfortable with my knee. Physically, I'm gaining the weight I need to gain.
"I sat out my junior year, then came back for my senior year and sat another year. It was tough. But I think I liked this kind of sitting out better. It was more developmental and I believe in my body better."
With the Buffs morphing from an experienced team that fell short of expectations in 2016-17 to a younger squad hoping to find a spark through an infusion of enthusiasm, Walton expects to play a key role in the program's near future.
A late signee a year ago, Walton's addition gave the Buffs an intriguing piece to deploy in the coming seasons. As they say, you can't coach being 7-foot.
CU is losing three of its top four rebounders in Wesley Gordon, Xavier Johnson, and Derrick White. Walton, who arrived with a surprisingly soft shooting touch for a big man, has spent the past year honing the more physical aspects of his game with an eye on filling some of that rebounding void next season.
"I'm able to use more of my weight to kind of move people around and finish with contact. I think that's one thing I had trouble with," Walton said. "Even with my shot, you've got to progress on your game as a whole. I've got to finish with a dunk instead of a floater or a soft hook."
Though solid rebounding numbers from Walton would be more than welcome, he could shore up an equally glaring shortcoming at the defensive end as well. Gordon leaves as CU's No. 2 all-time leader in blocked shots, yet he suffered a significant drop-off in that department this past season. Head coach Tad Boyle sees the potential in Walton to be a difference-maker as an interior defender.
"He really showed flashes during the season of a guy who can be a rim protector and can alter shot defensively," Boyle said. "But also he's a very good 15 to 17-foot shooter. He's got a nice touch. Now, can he score on the block with physicality? That's the challenge.
"He needs to continue to get stronger and bigger. He can make unbelievable strides between now and November in the weight room, and he needs to. That part of the process with Dallas will be on-going."