Rebuilding is a project most coaches don’t enjoy admitting they’re doing, even when that’s exactly what is happening with their team. And ascribing the term reloading to a team that fell short of expectations while bowing out of the first round of the NIT hardly seems appropriate.
Fans of the Colorado men’s basketball team can call it what they like. The truth is, when the Buffaloes eventually return to the court next fall, it will be with a team boasting an entirely different composition and chemistry than the one that finished 19-15 this year.
It also will mark the beginning of what likely will be a pivotal season for head coach Tad Boyle, whose seventh season at the helm ended Wednesday night with an NIT first-round loss at Central Florida.
“Every year is an important year. Everyone says that,” Boyle said. “But this year for Colorado basketball and the players we have returning, it is a critically important that the players in our program, that are returning next year, get better in every aspect of their game.
“It is also important that those three freshmen coming in come in with the idea that they can have an impact on next year’s team. They can have a major impact on next year’s team. There’s five starting spots open. That’s the message. It’s wide open. We’ve got to rebuild, because the expectations won’t go away. Internally or externally.”
Wednesday’s loss marked the end of the line for seniors Derrick White, Xavier Johnson, Wesley Gordon, and Josh Fortune. Next year, seniors-to-be George King, Tory Miller, and Dom Collier will be tasked with leading a group that will be far younger and less experienced.
This season’s freshmen — Deleon Brown, Lucas Siewert, and Bryce Peters — figure to play more prominent roles, though the talented but unreliable Peters must prove he is capable of making more mature off-court decisions after being suspended on three separate occasions for a total of 8.5 games this year. Seven-foot freshman Dallas Walton, who took a redshirt season this year, also is expected to assume a contributing role.
Boyle brings in what on paper is regarded as the best recruiting class of his tenure in Tyler Bey, Evan Battey, and Sand Creek star D’Shawn Schwartz. That means there could be four rotation players who haven’t played a minute of Division I basketball entering the 2017-18 season, as well as three sophomores who played only marginal roles this year.
It should be noted that Namon Wright, who averaged over 23 minutes in 61 games over two seasons at Missouri before transferring, will add a measure of experience to that mix. But Wright’s practice time was limited this year due to a foot injury, and meshing with his new teammates on the court will remain an ongoing process.
“This isn’t something that’s going to be given just because you’re a senior and it’s your turn,” Boyle said. “Guess what? You’re a senior, you’d better play like a senior. You’d better act like a senior. And hopefully we’ll get some leadership from Dom Collier, from Tory Miller, from George King. They’re all capable. They’re all wonderful young men. I love all three of them. But they have to all get better in many different areas.”