It was a forgettable finish last spring for the Colorado men’s basketball team, and one the Buffaloes will be on a mission to erase throughout the 2020-21 season.
While many of the struggles that led to a five-game, season-ending losing streak can be attributed to a team-wide shooting slump along with, eventually, a collective erosion of confidence, no player epitomized the Buffs’ slide like D’Shawn Schwartz.
At midseason, Schwartz was making a run at CU’s single-season 3-point percentage record and had just authored some memorable heroics in Chicago. At the United Center, Schwartz’s buzzer-beater in overtime toppled 13th-ranked Dayton and provided a moment Tad Boyle on Thursday described as “the biggest shot probably we’ve had since Askia hit his against Kansas,” referring to Askia Booker’s last-second heave that lifted CU past the sixth-ranked Jayhawks on Dec. 7, 2013.
By the end of the season, however, the cool and confident Schwartz that lit up the early months of the season was gone, replaced by a player who was visibly struggling with his confidence in what turned out to be a season-ending loss against Washington State in the Pac-12 Conference tournament.
After the second practice of the preseason on Thursday, Schwartz discussed his late struggles and said his offseason work focused as much on honing his mental focus as his physical skills.
“Mostly it was just me being in my own head,” Schwartz said. “That’s more of an issue that I was trying to combat in this offseason more than anything, just trying to figure out how I can be mentally better off the court, on the court. Keeping confident throughout the year. I had a really good start to the year but it didn’t necessarily end with the same confidence. Just working on that and trying to be stronger in that area.”
Schwartz said the broken nose he suffered at Oregon State on Feb. 15 didn’t contribute to his late struggles, and that theory is belied anyway by the fact Schwartz went 4-for-8 with three 3-pointers in the Buffs’ next game.
However, Schwartz likely had a few nightmares over the summer from both a team and individual perspective spurred by that ending five-game slide. During that stretch, Schwartz went just 2-for-19 on 3-pointers before playing a season-low 15 minutes in the culminating loss against Washington State.
“It’s been an interesting offseason given the circumstances,” Schwartz said. “Just trying to get my work in as best as I could and stay focused given what’s going on. I tried to dial in a lot more in film this year, trying to tighten up a lot of the little things that I wasn’t necessarily looking at the last three years. Just in that aspect, just trying to play a little bit more smart.”
Boyle believes there remains untapped potential in Schwartz as a rebounder, saying earlier this week he expects Schwartz, who has a career rebounding average of 3.1, to help in the effort to offset the loss of Tyler Bey on the glass. And in his own review of what went wrong for Schwartz down the stretch, Boyle determined the Buffs must be more efficient in designing, and executing, Schwartz-related sets to get the Colorado Springs native more involved in the offense.
“I know he struggled down the stretch last year, but we know he’s a great shooter and has made big shots for us,” Boyle said. “We’ve got to do a better job this year of putting him in position to make plays offensively. Not only for himself, but he’s also a good passer. D’Shawn can play out of ball screens effectively. He’s a great isolation driver and we’ve got to get him 3-point shots as well. I think it’s a combination of the coaching staff, we’ve got to do a better job of getting him the ball in positions where he can be successful. But also I think our team has to do a good job of recognizing, and McKinley (Wright) and I have talked about that as recently as last week about getting D’Shawn more shots offensively.”