• Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer


  • Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Colorado junior forward Wesley Gordon, right, works against Kenan Guzonjic in practice. The Buffs hope to tap Gordon's offensive potential more consistently this season.



The CU men’s basketball team already has an “XJ” in injured forward Xavier Johnson.

There’s also “XT,” an oft-used moniker for senior guard Xavier Talton.

But the Buffs also have an X factor. And according to head coach Tad Boyle, that player is redshirt junior forward Wesley Gordon.

With the season opener against an Iowa State team ranked seventh in the initial USA Today coaches’ poll now less than two weeks away, the Buffs are slowly adding their game faces to the preseason routine.

Johnson is out until at least the Pac-12 Conference schedule, if not the entire season, because of a torn Achilles tendon. And while many believe the departure of leading scorer Askia Booker will lead to vastly improved team chemistry, the loss of those two players nonetheless leaves a void of roughly 35 percent of CU’s offense that needs to be filled.

A healthier Josh Scott certainly will help. As will the addition of Providence transfer Josh Fortune and reasonable jumps from players such as Dom Collier, George King, TreShaun Fletcher and Tory Miller. Yet it is Gordon’s offensive potential that perhaps remains the most untapped resource for the Buffs.

“The step up for him is to be more aggressive offensively and more consistent,” Boyle said. “I said this before last season and I’ll say it before this season — he is the X factor for this team. He can make us go from an average team to a good team, or a good team to a great team. He’s got that much ability, both offensively and defensively.

“He’s a fourth-year guy now. Wesley is going to be as good as he wants to be.”

That elusive offensive consistency hasn’t hindered Gordon at the other end of the floor. He has led CU in blocked shots the past two seasons, and he and Scott are among only six Buffs players all-time to post consecutive seasons with at least 40 blocks.

Yet while Gordon paced CU with a .550 shooting percentage, his offense often became an afterthought in the Buffs’ attack. For every night Gordon enjoyed like an 8-for-11 performance in a win against Auburn, or a 6-for-7 night he put together at Oregon, there were games when, by Gordon’s own admission, a few early misses cooled his confidence.

“My aggressiveness has to stay consistent, no matter what the result is,” Gordon said. “When I miss shots, I sway away from being aggressive and trying to keep shooting. (Boyle) keeps teaching me to keep shooting and not worry if I miss. I’d think about it a lot and it shot my confidence.

“The coaching staff have done a great job of telling me to stay focused and staying aggressive. So if I miss shots they tell me to keep shooting good shots, so I don’t think about it too much.”

Boyle is quick to point out the burden of an improved 2015-16 campaign isn’t entirely on Gordon’s shoulders. The aforementioned players must flourish, and improve, in their respective roles. Scott must remain healthy. Yet a consistently dialed-in Gordon could help gloss over a number of shortcomings.

“It comes to mental focus,” Boyle said. “It’s no different than the classroom or life — you’ve got to be coming in every day focused on what you need to get done. Sometimes Wesley has had a tendency to float. He floats in, he floats out. You can’t be effective on a consistent basis at this level floating. You’ve got to be dialed in. And when he’s dialed in, he’s as good as we’ve got.”

Pat Rooney: or