As the Colorado men's basketball season dragged toward its unceremonious conclusion, there often was little for the forward-thinking Buffaloes fan to get excited about beyond an intriguing 2017 freshman class.
Derrick White, of course, provided a number of highlights, yet those thrills were balanced by the unfortunate reality the 2016-17 season would be his only one in a CU uniform. Xavier Johnson should be commended for reaching career-highs in a number of offensive categories, but between a suspension and a mid-game ejection he also was his own worst enemy in being unavailable for three and a half Pac-12 Conference games.
In fact, outside of White's dynamic play and the rebounding jump shown by George King, few Buffs displayed marked improvement from the season's opening tip through the Buffs' quick exit in the NIT.
One notable exception was freshman forward Lucas Siewert.
Often looking a step slow and in over his head through nonconference play and the start of the Pac-12 schedule, Siewert made enough of an impression over the final two months to instill confidence he can be a frontcourt fixture for the next few seasons.
"The main thing I'm trying to focus on now is ball-handling and my low post game," Siewert said. "Right now we're playing a lot of pickup, and I'm trying to guard guards so I can work on my lateral movement."
Despite an encouraging debut — Siewert made all three of his 3-point attempts and added five rebounds in a season-opening win against Sacramento State — by the time CU hosted Oregon State on Jan. 26 Siewert was shooting just .238 overall while going 2-for-16 from 3-point range following that stellar opening night.
That night against the Beavers, though, head coach Tad Boyle shook up his struggling team by starting an all-reserve lineup. Siewert responded, scoring only three points but exhibiting previously unseen aggressiveness by grabbing four offensive rebounds (five total) in just nine minutes. Siewert became a more reliable part of the rotation the rest of the way, scoring 12 points while matching his season high with six rebounds in a win against Washington on Feb. 9 and going 4-for-5 on 3-pointers with a season-high 15 points in a home win against Stanford.
"I didn't start really well this season, but I really tried to focus on practices and tried to do my best in practice. The coaches started noticing that," Siewert said. "That gave me more confidence. And when I went into the games, the main thing I did was try to do what I was doing in practice."
Moving forward, Siewert is focused on using his size more productively. A player who typically has leaned heavily on his outside shot, Siewert still is developing an inside game more commensurate with his broad-shouldered, 6-foot-10 frame. Siewert finished his rookie campaign averaging just 2.1 rebounds in 11.5 minutes per game.
"I think Lucas, especially at the end, really started coming into his own," Boyle said. "Early on was a lot of watching and looking and observing, and toward the end of the year he was playing. He's a big part of the future of our program. He can shoot the ball, but he's really committed to working on his low-post game and putting the ball on the floor.
"He's always been a good catch-and-shoot, stretch-four man. And that's good. We like that. But what Lucas needs to add to his game is the ability to put the ball on the floor and attack and make good decisions when he faces the basket, but also to do down low and use his size in a mismatch situation."