The Colorado men’s basketball team has a steady and defensively intimidating leader in the paint in Wesley Gordon.
They feature a budding star driven to build on a breakout season in junior George King and a senior in Xavier Johnson eager to end his Buffaloes career on a winning note after missing last season due to injury.
Yet even with a long list of strengths to boast, perhaps no player has more pressure on his shoulders for the Buffs to realize their goals during the 2016-17 season than junior point guard Dominique Collier.
It’s a challenge Collier is ready to embrace.
The homegrown product from Denver East resumed his role as the Buffs’ primary ball-handler during the team’s open scrimmage on Saturday, unofficially beginning his quest to become a more consistent and assertive floor general this season.
“I’ve been focused on being a better floor leader, a floor general,” Collier said. “I have to get our scorers and then guys that looked disengaged, I have to get them into the game. And then I have to do the little things, like not turning the ball over and just making smarter decisions.
“It’s about slowing down and just letting the game come to me and not try to force plays. Let the opportunities that I see come to me.”
In many ways, Collier made the sort of jump last year that every player strives for when moving up from a freshman to a sophomore. After struggling from the floor, and particularly the 3-point line (.269, 18-for-67) as a rookie, Collier became one of the more dependable threats in the league from long-range last year, finishing second in the Pac-12 with a 3-point percentage of .444 (40-for-90).
However, Collier’s first season as the Buffs’ primary ball-handler produced mixed results at best. While Collier fared well in CU’s 13 nonconference games (46 assists, 27 turnovers), his assists-to-turnover ratio suffered in Pac-12 play. Despite producing 11 assists and two turnovers during an impressive home sweep of the Oregon schools, Collier ultimately finished with 42 assists and 41 turnovers in 20 league games (including two in the Pac-12 tournament).
“The big thing is he’s got to be more consistent in the assist-to-turnover ration and running the team, telling guys where they need to be,” CU head coach Boyle said. “That gets back to being more vocal, especially with six new guys. He’s got to be telling guys where to go.
“He’s fully capable of getting it done, there’s no question about it. This is a big year for Dom.”
Two habits Collier has worked to correct this offseason were his penchant for reaching on defense and leaving his feet on offense. Too often Collier’s turnovers occurred when he let himself getting caught in the air while trying to pass. At the other end of the floor Collier often got into early foul trouble, a trait that limited his minutes in CU’s loss against Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament as well as the Buffs’ NCAA Tournament loss against UConn.
“I’ve come in and watched a lot of film, trying to slow down and let the game come to me and not force plays,” Collier said. “I have to stay confident and that’s a main thing for everybody. Making better decisions comes with being confident too.”
Boyle is pleased with the progress his team made between last week’s scrimmage and Saturday’s workout. “We’re in better shape and I heard guys talking more,” Boyle said. “There was more cohesiveness and a better sense of urgency than last week.”…Gordon remained sidelined Saturday due to a minor ankle injury.