For a guy on scholarship at a Power 5 conference school, Dallas Walton has not played much competitive basketball over the past five years.
Injuries — specifically back-to-back torn ACLs — basically robbed Walton of his sophomore and junior seasons at Arvada West High School. While he dutifully worked his way back, twice, Walton's final growth spurt put his height at an even 7-feet.
The tenet that you can't coach height, especially 7-foot-type height, along with soft hands and a plus-shooting touch was enough to convince Colorado coach Tad Boyle that Walton was worth a scholarship, even with the limited competition he faced during high school.
Walton arrived at Boulder a slight 218 pounds and, with his leg strength still far behind the pace physically after consecutive ACL surgeries, CU's coaching staff opted to give Walton a redshirt year. He spent much of the 2016-17 season under the tutelage of strength and conditioning coach Steve Englehart, focused as much on his workouts off the floor as his practice time on the floor.
While Walton put in his due diligence in the weight room, checking in for his first season of eligibility at 230 pounds, the Buffs' preseason workouts are the first time the local product has noticed his newfound strength paying dividends on the court.
"When I first got the weight, I wasn't feeling it at first," Walton said. "Now, just working with Steve in getting my legs stronger, I really feel like I can move people a lot easier. Tory Miller, he's a big guy. And I'm able to hold my kind of hold my own a little bit. More than I used to last year as a freshman. I think that's going to help me out a lot."
Like the remaining crew of freshmen on CU's roster, Walton benefitted greatly from the Buffs' four-game trip through Italy in August — his first taste of competition that wasn't against his own teammates in almost two years.
Walton averaged 4.3 rebounds and collected four blocked shots, though three of those occurred in one game. While one gets the sense Boyle will consider any offense from Walton as a bonus if he is grabbing rebounds and changing opponents' shots at the rim, Walton acquitted himself reasonably well offensively in Italy, averaging five points while going 7-for-16 in an average of 14.3 points per game.
"I take pride in being a rim protector for this team," Walton said. "Even if I'm really close to a ball I'm going to get that. I'm going to get that for our defense. And then just rebounding. Being consistent on offensive rebounds. That's big for me. Defensive rebounds, I'm going to get. But offensive rebounds, I need to be more focused on committing myself to getting those, even when I'm tired. I think those are two big things for me coming out of Italy.
"It's about finding things that you're good at, and making sure that you contribute those as best you can to help the team. I consider myself a great rebounder and great rim protector. Those are things I'm going to make sure that I'm doing on an everyday basis to help this team."