When his head coach talks about D'Shawn Schwartz's ability to take his game to another level, it isn't Schwartz's outside shot or athletic, 6-foot-7 frame that immediately springs to mind.
When Colorado men's basketball coach Tad Boyle talks about Schwartz, he almost always discusses the sophomore's need to improve defensively and on the glass.
That hasn't always been a simple challenge for Schwartz, the guard from Colorado Springs. Yet Schwartz was able to finally get over one significant hurdle during this past week's win at New Mexico, as for the first time this season Schwartz was able to remain on the floor and make valuable contributions on a night when his shot wasn't falling.
"I can't really control whether the shot is going in or not, but I can always control how I'm playing on defense and rebounding, and I think I did a good job of that," Schwartz said. "I'm learning angles a little bit better playing defense this year. Getting stronger, I think that helped (defensively). I've been focused on that and making it a part of my game."
Schwartz went 0-for-7 from the floor against New Mexico, and it wasn't the first time he has struggled to score in what has been a roller-coaster start to his season. He went scoreless (0-for-2) with only two rebounds in the Buffs' lone loss at San Diego, though Schwartz did post a career-best three assists. Schwartz also went 0-for-3 with no points and two rebounds in a Dec. 1 home win against Colorado State.
Schwartz went 10-for-15 in two games between Colorado State and New Mexico, but his struggles offensively at New Mexico featured a different tone than his previous rough games. Against San Diego Schwartz logged 23 minutes and played only 16 against CSU, yet against New Mexico he played 28 minutes and remained on the floor for much of the critical action down the stretch.
Boyle said he was pleased with Schwartz's defense at New Mexico, and despite the 0-for from the field Schwartz still finished with six rebounds, one assist and no turnovers. He also got to the free throw line, going 3-for-4.
"If you go 0-for-7 from the field, like he did at New Mexico, and you miss wide open shots...I've told D'Shawn that if you defend and rebound, you can still help this team. I think a case in point was the New Mexico game," Boyle said. "Yeah, the shot wasn't falling. He wasn't making looks he normally makes. But he found a way to help this team win with his defense, with his rebounding, with his physicality.
"He's that big wing. He and Namon (Wright) are both two big, physical perimeter defenders and rebounders that we need to have."
CU's weekly basketball coaches show with Boyle and women's basketball coach JR Payne begins Monday at Carelli's from 7-8 p.m. A men's basketball player also will be a regular feature of the lineup. The show will air on 850 AM and, after a break over the holidays, will continue on a weekly basis beginning in January.