The first hurdle in Tory Miller-Stewart's decision-making process for the Colorado men's basketball team has been cleared.
In this case, that first hurdle simply was Miller-Stewart's ability to take a step, as the senior forward this week finally was able to shed the walking boot that has been part of his life since suffering a season-ending broken foot more than two months ago.
Miller-Stewart has begun tiptoeing through very light basketball exercises, such as shooting free throws, but remains in the first stages of his physical rehabilitation.
"I can get some shots up, maybe do some work on the treadmill and I'm walking," Miller-Stewart said. "I've got to restrain myself at the moment with the excitement of getting out there."
Next for Miller-Stewart over the next month or two is to decide what course to take in the immediate future of his basketball career. He remains eligible for a redshirt and a fifth season with the Buffs, but since he graduates in May Miller-Stewart could opt to leave as a graduate transfer and be eligible immediately at another school. Head coach Tad Boyle still has a scholarship at his disposal for the 2018-19 season and has already stated the spot belongs to Miller-Stewart if he wants it.
It is a somewhat similar situation to what Boyle went through two seasons ago with Xavier Johnson, whose senior season also ended prematurely due to a torn Achilles tendon he suffered the previous summer. Johnson had similar options on his plate as he watched the 2015-16 campaign from the sideline before eventually deciding to return for a fifth season last year.
"This is a situation, I've said it before, the decisions our players make and that maybe I help them make or counsel them on, however you want to put it, after the season are what's best for them," Boyle said. "Every player, it doesn't matter if they're a freshman or a sophomore or a junior or a senior. It doesn't make any difference. It doesn't matter if they're at the end of their career, like Tory is towards the end of it, or if they're a freshman. What is best for you?
"Obviously I'm always concerned about Colorado basketball. So with Tory that conversation — not necessarily the decision, but the conversation — started a lot earlier because his season ended so early. Normally I don't have those conversations until March and the season's over with. With Tory I started having it in December. It's not something I'm pushing him on, but he'll make the best decision for Tory Miller."
After two relatively healthy seasons, injury and illness have conspired against coach Tad Boyle's club a little more fervently this season. Namon Wright, the Buffs' third-leading scorer at 11.1 points per game, missed his second consecutive game Wednesday night against Cal due to an illness that kept him out of last week's win against Utah. Wright will likely return in the near future, possibly as soon as Sunday's home date against Stanford.
"We're hoping to have him back Sunday against Stanford," Boyle said. "A lot of that will depend on how he progresses the next few days and just how he's feeling. But he's feeling better. He's feeling much better (this week) than he was last week. He was definitely under the weather."
Sophomore forward Lucas Siewert missed two games in November due to a sprained ankle, while reserves Deleon Brown and Alex Strating also have missed time this season due to illness.