Dallas Walton showed flashes of the player that made a huge impact for the Colorado Buffaloes two seasons ago. Head coach Tad Boyle hopes to see those flashes far more frequently a year from now.
It was a long and often painful road back into the rotation for the 7-foot Walton one year after suffering a torn right ACL that robbed him of his entire 2018-19 season. Walton twice suffered the same injury in his left knee during his prep career at Arvada West, so he was well-versed in the long recovery process an ACL tear requires.
However, even though he played his senior season at Arvada West, Walton still redshirted during his first season at CU, in large part so he could develop the lower body strength he was lacking after his injury-riddled prep career. Walton didn’t get the benefit of that extra recovery time going into this season. And while he was eased into the rotation slowly at the outset of the season, following a script set by the Buffs’ coaching staff and athletic training personnel, Walton’s slow recovery along with a numbers crunch in the frontcourt rotation kept his minutes at a minimum.
“Dallas again was caught in a little bit of a numbers game,” Boyle said. “But we know that Dallas has proven himself, pre-ACL, what he was capable of. I think he showed flashes this year of the player that he was. I’m extremely hopeful and confident, and believe, that he can make a full, full recovery. I would have liked to have given Dallas more minutes this year than he got. Again, having Lucas (Siewert), having Evan (Battey), having Tyler (Bey) in that kind of three-man rotation in the post, his minutes were spotty. Dallas Walton is a guy that we are counting on. The rehabilitation, that’s pretty much done now. Now it’s about development. The development of his body and his strength and his skill set and his lateral movement.”
When Bey endured a one-game absence due to a hand injury at home against Washington State on Jan. 23, Walton picked up the slack with his finest performance of the season, going 3-for-3 while matching a season-high with seven points. Walton also grabbed a season-best four rebounds, and two days later he posted his other seven-point effort of the season in a win against Washington.
However, those two contests were two of only four times this season Walton logged double-digit minutes. He finished with a .415 shooting percentage but improved as the season progressed, posting a .565 mark in Pac-12 Conference play.
Throughout the year, Boyle cited Walton’s lateral movement as the final hurdle in the 7-footer’s quest to regain his form from two seasons ago. With another offseason to improve those physical skills, along with the losses of Siewert and Bey, the Buffs expect Walton to play a bigger role during his senior season next year (Walton has said on several occasions he plans to apply for a sixth year of eligibility following the 2020-21 season).
“I think the biggest thing that we’re going to try to work on with Dallas in the offseason is his ability to move laterally on that knee so that defensively he can become the presence that he once was,” Boyle said. “Because offensively, I’ve got full confidence in his skill. He can shoot the ball, can score on the block. I think it’s just trusting that knee and hopefully getting to the point where he can bang in the post. But I’m fully confident in his ability, and his drive and determination to get back to where he was.”