As the Colorado men's basketball team reconvened on Tuesday to begin preparations for its Thursday night home battle against Washington State, the Buffaloes did so riding the sort of momentum that is making the season more interesting and potentially more promising for the youthful Buffaloes.
Even so, it was difficult to wonder "What if?' at the sight of two of the Buffs' best post players, senior Tory Miller-Stewart and freshman Evan Battey, sitting side-by-side along the side of the court.
At this point the absence of both players is neither new nor shocking for a team that has defeated three of the Pac-12 Conference's most talented teams — Arizona State, Arizona, and UCLA — within the past two weeks. Miller-Stewart was lost for the season after suffering a broken foot after just six games. Battey was ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA during the preseason, though the medical scare he suffered at home during the semester break has clouded his future with the CU program.
While Battey still is undergoing a series of tests to determine the root cause of a still-undisclosed affliction that struck him with stroke-like symptoms, Miller-Stewart on Tuesday spoke publicly for the first time since suffering an injury — specifically, a fractured left metatarsal in his left foot — that required surgery and ended his senior season prematurely.
"You've just got to take mini-milestones to keep you going," said Miller-Stewart, who hopes to ditch his cart and begin walking with his left foot in a boot within the next two weeks. "You just have to do something, whether it's going to the weight room or doing things to keep you motivated. They did everything they could to convince me (it wasn't bad) on my way to the x-ray, but I think sometimes you just know when something's wrong."
As for what comes next for the 6-foot-9 senior, Miller-Stewart said he will take his time making his decision. Given he is on track to graduate in the spring, Miller-Stewart essentially has three options — return to CU for a fifth season, begin a pro career overseas, or spend his fifth and final season with a new program as a graduate transfer.
CU head coach Tad Boyle has previously stated the open scholarship at his disposal for the 2018-19 season is Miller-Stewart's if he wants it.
"It's going to be an on-going process probably until the end of the season," Miller-Stewart said. "I won't have a decision until a long time from now. The ball is in my court whatever I do. But I haven't necessarily sat down and come to any realization. I'm still focused on this team doing as well as we can before I focus on myself."
Battey is being looked at by CU doctors after seeing doctors near his southern California home following collapsing during the semester break. Boyle still couldn't offer a diagnosis but did say that Battey is improving while expressing hope the 6-foot-8 freshman is on the road to recovery.
"He'll be meeting with doctors and starting his rehab process this week as we get going," Boyle said. "The doctors are still gathering information. Now our doctors can look at him, see him, and get him to who he needs to see. They're still getting everything from the doctors in California from when the event happened. There's a lot of things that need to go on.
"Obviously I want it to happen right away. Evan wants it to happen right away. But we're just going to take it one day at a time, have him get better and improved. He's been doing that and that's all we can ask."