LAS VEGAS — Before he decided to continue his basketball career at Colorado, even before the Buffaloes started recruiting him, George King had a feeling CU would be a perfect fit.
Five years later King’s career has, most likely, come to a conclusion, a fate that was decided when the Buffaloes were eliminated from the Pac-12 Conference tournament with an 83-67 quarterfinal-round loss Thursday against Arizona.
Given the Buffs are not expecting an invitation to the NIT, King was in a reflective mood after a final performance that featured a team-leading 19 points.
“I remember before CU was recruiting me I was watching Andre (Roberson) here and I told myself I could see myself playing at the University of Colorado,” King said. “When I got the offer I kind of already committed in my head. All I had to do was go to the campus. It’s been a rollercoaster journey for me in my five years here. I’m a Buff for life and always will be.”
It was an unusual yet successful route traveled by King during his CU career. After playing minimal minutes in 27 games as a true freshman during the 2013-14 season, King made the most of a subsequent redshirt season to win the Pac-12 Most Improved Player award in 2016.
King embraced the challenge of becoming an elite rebounder the past two years, leading the Buffs in both seasons, and his name will remain prominent in the CU record book. With 19 points on Thursday, King increased his career total to 1,294 points, moving past Pat Frink and Alec Burks to finish at No. 18 among CU’s all-time leading scorers.
King finished with 681 career rebounds, which ranks 14th all-time. He also finished fifth all-time in made 3-pointers (181) and second in career 3-point percentage (.401).
“I had high expectations of myself coming in,” said King, a second team All-Pac-12 selection this season “To be able to be one of the top-20 in those categories means a lot.”
King is not the only player whose 2017-18 numbers will be remembered in the CU record book.
Senior Dom Collier scored only four points Thursday before fouling out with 1 minute, 10 seconds remaining, but the Denver native caps his career ranked 22nd all-time in assists (221) and 21st in steals (98).
Point guard McKinley Wright also put the finishing touches on a historic freshman season, despite leaving the Arizona loss with 13:08 left due to an ankle injury. Wright’s 175 assists are the most ever by a CU freshman and that total ranks second-best single-season total in team history, trailing only the 194 assists recorded by Jose Winston in 2000-01. Wright’s 454 total points was the fourth-most by a CU freshman.
Siewert keeps rolling
In addition to the season-long improvement of CU’s talented freshman class, an additional bright spot for the future has been on display during the late-season surge from Lucas Siewert.
The sophomore forward continued his recent hot streak Thursday against Arizona, finishing with 16 points. Through the Buffs’ win at UCLA on Jan. 13, Siewert had recorded just three double-digit scoring efforts in 48 career games. He posted nine in the next 14 games, including a run of four in a row to close the season.
“I had a pretty good second half of the season, and that’s just going to give me a lot of confidence for next year,” Siewert said. “I know what I’m capable of, so I’m just going to keep working for next season.”
The Buffs have advanced out of the Pac-12 quarterfinals just twice over seven seasons in the league, winning the title in their inaugural appearance in 2012 and bowing out in the semifinals in 2014…Freshman Tyler Bey grabbed 19 rebounds in the two games in Vegas, pushing his final season average to 5.1…The Buffs’ committed 15 turnovers on Thursday. It was the 15th time this season they have committed at least 15 in a game…Arizona went 26-for-38 at the free throw line, which were season-high totals for a CU opponent.
Pat Rooney: firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/prooney07