Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
LYNCHBURG, Va.— There are far greater tests on the horizon for the Colorado men’s basketball team.
But 5-0 still is 5-0, and there have been several encouraging signs during a fast start that included three wins in three days while claiming the championship at the Paradise Jam in Virginia.
Individually, McKinley Wright has shown that he is more than ready to carry the load as the Buffaloes’ point guard despite his status as a freshman. Senior George King has been strong on the boards and seemingly got his 3-point shot on track during Sunday’s Paradise Jam title win against Mercer. And junior guard Namon Wright has displayed impressive explosiveness one year after enduring foot surgery.
Collectively, the Buffs still have plenty of room for improvement. Yet the fact that several different players have put together dominant stretches of play could be CU’s most important ingredient while moving forward with a deep rotation.
“This team has a lot of weapons,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “They believe in each other, and they continue to trust and believe in each other both offensively and defensively. What I like about this team is we’re now at the point in the season, and it’s still early, but they’re recognizing their mistakes. And they’re trying to hold each other accountable.
“On any given night there’s a lot of choices to be made on that bench. A lot of capable players on that bench. It’s going to be that sort of team — different nights will be different guys’ nights.”
In the three games of the Paradise Jam alone, several Buffs players took over at different moments. During Friday’s opening win against Quinnipiac, the Buffs rallied late behind 16 second-half points from Namon Wright and two 3-pointers from McKinley Wright in the final 15 seconds, including the winner at the buzzer.
Against Drake in the semifinals Tory Miller-Stewart supported another strong outing by the Wrights by going 5-for-6 from the field, and in Sunday’s finale against Mercer it was Deleon Brown’s turn, as he scored 13 points off the bench to support King’s big 25-point, eight-rebound performance. CU also received key contributions in the title game from 7-footer Dallas Walton, who played only seven minutes but nonetheless was productive (four points, two rebounds, one blocked shot) while filling in for injured sophomore forward Lucas Siewert.
“That’s very encouraging,” Brown said. “That just goes to show how much depth we have on this team. We talked about it in our film room. When other teams are putting together their scouting report for us, it’s hard to figure out which guy to stop because we have so many guys who can do so many different things. I feel that’s the beauty of this team.”
While the Buffs will have an opportunity to slow down somewhat during Thanksgiving week, the competition is about to get more challenging. The Buffs host Air Force on Sunday before visiting rival Colorado State on Dec. 2. The Buffs then host New Mexico on Dec. 6 before visiting nationally-ranked Xavier on Dec. 9.
“This is a week for us to get better individually, and it’s a week for us to get better as a team,” Boyle said. “We need to put some new things in offensively to give us some more versatility there. We need to get our bodies right and get caught up academically. It’s a good week for us to exhale. Let’s find out where we need to get better individually and collectively, and let’s go to work this week to do that.
“College basketball is a long season mentally, physically, emotionally. I want to make sure we re-energize ourselves.”