SAN FRANCISCO — Things snowballed the wrong way in a hurry for the Colorado men's basketball team last year. Senior George King vows to do whatever he can to not let that happen again.
His burgeoning role as a senior leader took another step on Thursday, as King and fellow senior Tory Miller-Stewart represented the Buffaloes alongside head coach Tad Boyle at the annual Pac-12 Conference men's basketball media day.
It was an interesting day in what typically is a staid, predictable event, with much of the focus centered upon the ongoing FBI investigation of a recruiting scandal that led to arrests of assistant coaches at Arizona and USC. For King, however, the focus has been narrowed on making sure the younger, new-look Buffs do not repeat the mistakes that led to last year's disappointing campaign.
"When adversity hits, and it's going to hit, I want to be able to recognize it and I want to make sure our team is going to come together so that when adversity hits we're getting stronger," King said. "A lot of teams, when adversity hits they go their separate ways.
"Experience is the best teacher. And I know last year there was a lot of times when adversity hit, guys went their separate ways. When adversity hits this year I want to make sure, collectively, that we stand up and take this thing head-on. I think if we're able do that, we put ourselves on top of a lot of teams."
The Buffs' 2016-17 season was sabotaged by an 0-7 start in Pac-12 play, a run of frustration that included two overtime losses and two other last-minute defeats. Nearly all of those defeats exposed a different shortcoming among the Buffs, and CU was never able to reverse the momentum while their goal of a fifth NCAA Tournament appearance in six seasons slipped away.
Being unable to overcome such adversity was a peculiar trait for a team that featured four fifth-year seniors in addition to King, then a fourth-year junior coming off a season in which he won the league's Most Improved Player award. Given adversity is inevitable for any team, particularly for a CU squad that features nine players that hasn't played a minute of basketball in a Buffaloes uniform, the notes King took regarding last year's struggles could prove to be beneficial.
"That's when you find out what you're about, when adversity hits," Boyle said. "It's not a matter of if it's going to hit. It's when it's going to hit, and how it's going to hit. The thing about basketball is the season is long, but once you get into conference play every game counts. If you lose game number one, what do we have to do to not lose game number two? And you have to figure that out pretty quickly. You might have a day in-between games, maybe two. Last year's team didn't do that. The attention to detail, the bringing guys together to make sure this doesn't happen again, it didn't occur."
It was a curious season last year for King. After leading the Pac-12 with a .456 3-point percentage while averaging 13.6 points in the 2015-16 season, those numbers dipped to .376 and 11.1 last year. On the other hand, King made a significant step forward as a rebounder, leading the Buffs at 6.8 per game. The goal is to combine those two aspects of his game more efficiently this year.
"I usually don't have a conscience when I shoot the ball, but last year I was thinking about it," King said. "Wondering and hoping the ball would go in. There's a big difference between hoping it would go in and knowing it's going in. That dip was a result of 'Oh, I hope it's going in.' I was thinking about my shot too much. Don't think, just do."