To say Dom Collier had a lost year during the 2016-17 season might be somewhat of an overstatement.
Still, the guard from the Colorado men's basketball team admits it was a disappointing year by his personal standards. With an entirely new team around him and his senior season soon on the way, Collier is planning to leave behind a better impression once his time with the Buffaloes comes to an end.
It doesn't seem so long ago that Collier was pegged as the Buffaloes' point guard of the future, a designation that came with extra pressure given his status as a homegrown talent out of Denver East. As the Buffaloes have prepared for their four-game trip through Italy next week, Collier finds himself in a role of an elder statesman, a voice that has gained wisdom through the ups-and-downs of his CU career that could be meaningful for the next generation of Buffs players.
"I didn't have the season I wanted last year, and this is my last year and I just want to go out with a bang and lead this team as best as I can," Collier said. "We're really young, but we're really talented also."
Collier's role as the point guard he held during the 2015-16 season was assumed by Derrick White last season, yet out of the gate Collier looked as if he would make a smooth transition to being a key shooter off the bench. He went 4-for-6 from 3-point in a season-opening win against Sacramento State, but Collier managed only seven minutes in the second game due to a foot injury that sidelined him the next nine games.
By the time Collier returned, White was firmly ensconced in the point guard role while the Buffs overall were struggling to find an identity — a description that fit the team the remainder of the season. Though Collier started 14 of the final 16 games, his .333 3-point percentage ultimately was a significant drop from the .444 mark he posted as a full-time starter a year earlier.
"I kind of had a tough time settling in, starting the season off and then sitting out," Collier said. "With Derrick moving into the one, I tried to adjust and play the two. But I'm not making any excuses. I didn't have as good a year as I wanted. But it's a new year. We've got another good guard in McKinley (Wright) who can really play the one. If we're in there together I'll probably play the two. I'm comfortable at the two and I had a good experience there last year."
Though it remains far too early to project a starting lineup for the upcoming season, with Wright showing signs he can handle the point guard duties, Collier could play a hybrid backup point guard/3-point shooter role.
"Dom is a capable guy. When he's open, I want him shooting the ball," head coach Tad Boyle said. "He's a senior. He knows what's expected of him. I know he's capable of doing what we're asking him to do. Now it's a matter of playing like a senior. What that means is being very consistent in his effort, in his execution, and his reads. I want Dom to be a leader on this team."
Lazar Nikolic, who remains in paperwork limbo with NCAA clearinghouse issues, may be able to at least meet his new teammates in Italy. But unless the NCAA clears him sooner than later Nikolic still will be unable to participate in any organized activities with the Buffs.
A guard from Serbia whose club team is based in Rome, Nikolic's NCAA clearance still is expected to be more a matter of when than if. However, he already has lost valuable training time with his new teammates.
"The NCAA is dealing with a lot of student-athletes right now, and I don't know if they give priority to football players right now and other fall sport athletes," Boyle said. "All I know is they have had what they needed to have for a week or so. The problem I have is they keep coming back needing something else.
"Here's an example. He went to school in Rome. We're going to play a game where Lazar actually competed. He sent (the NCAA) their transcripts back in May. He was still completing some classes online. But they (the NCAA) wait until they get those classes in his file, and then they ask questions about his school in Rome. They could've been asking questions about his school in Rome back in May, in June, in July. But they don't operate that way. So it's a little bit frustrating from my standpoint."
With eight players competing at practice this week who weren't on CU's active roster a year ago, the Buffs have attempted to build camaraderie with a bowling outing, a barbecue at Boyle's house, and a paintball outing. Boyle was the only casualty from Friday's paintball war, suffering a strained hamstring. "I put it into fifth gear, but I don't have a fifth gear anymore," Boyle said...Freshman forward Evan Battey suffered a sprained ankle during Saturday's practice.