There are two natural point guards on the Colorado men's basketball roster. And early indications are they could begin the season by often sharing the floor at the same time.
Freshman McKinley Wright is the Buffaloes' point guard of the future. Dom Collier is a senior who has weathered all sorts of ups-and-downs during his CU career and hopes to finish on a strong note. While on the surface it appears they are the only players at coach Tad Boyle's disposal capable of running the offense, sharing the workload simultaneously may be as common for the duo in 2017-18 as one point guard sitting while the other runs the show.
"I'd throw Laz in there too," said Boyle, referring to freshman guard Lazar Nikolic. "You put Laz and Dom and McKinley on the floor together and you have three really good ball-handlers, three really good passers, three guys that can shoot it. I think there's going to be a lot of multiple-type lineups that we're going to be able to use. It's nice to have two ball-handlers on the floor at all times. Not that we'll always have two on the floor, but it sure is nice."
Collier played the role of the Buffs' primary point guard during the 2015-16 season, which ended with the Buffs' fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in five seasons. Then a sophomore, it was a seesaw season personally for Collier, who finished with a career-best 7.5 points per game and a 3-point percentage of .440 (40-for-90), which would have been the fourth-best single-season mark in CU history had he maintained that pace for just 10 more attempts.
However, Collier often struggled late in games that season while compiling a below-par assist-to-turnover rate of 1.32.
With eventual NBA first-round pick Derrick White in the mix a year ago for his lone season of eligibility with the Buffs, Collier was forced to accept a reduced role. A foot injury early in the year sidelined Collier for nine games, and his 3-point percentage dipped to .333.
While it appeared there was a chance Collier might be supplanted this season by Wright, Boyle seemed to indicate four-fifths of the starting unit he unveiled in Monday night's exhibition against Colorado Mines has the inside track at being in the starting lineup for the season opener against Northern Colorado Nov. 10. That means Collier could be working in tandem with Wright, allowing the freshman to get his feet wet at the Division I level before eventually assuming full command of the Buffs' offense.
"It's really helpful for me to have someone like McKinley back there with me who can handle the ball also," Collier said. "When teams press it will be much more comfortable for me knowing he's back there."
Unlike Collier, who has balanced playing off the ball and playing the point throughout his CU career, Wright is a lifelong point guard who may have to adjust somewhat to playing without the ball. Boyle does not believe that nuance will be an issue, and having Collier and Wright on the floor at the same time will give the Buffs' rebounders the benefit of finding the first open outlet guard they see to jump-start the offense, instead of trying to get the ball in the hands of a single designated point guard.
"Back in high school I always had the ball in my hand a lot, but coming here knowing that Dom also is a point guard has made it a lot easier for me to get used to playing off the ball," Wright said. "I've been getting used to it and comfortable, and he has made it easy for me."