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Newcomer Mason Faulkner sidelined by ankle surgery

Grad transfer from Western Carolina expect to be ready for ’21-22 season

A couple of Colorado’s newcomers will be spending their summers simply getting healthy.

Following his team’s practice on Wednesday, CU men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle said senior guard Mason Faulkner recently underwent surgery to repair a lingering injury in Faulkner’s right ankle. Earlier this week, Boyle reported freshman guard Javon Ruffin was being held out of summer practices due to a knee issue.

Boyle said he and his staff were aware of the potential issue when Faulkner signed with CU in April as a graduate transfer from Western Carolina.

“He had surgery on his ankle and he’ll be out most of the summer. We hope to get him back in August or September. We don’t know the timeframe really yet,” Boyle said. “It’s just something that’s been kind of nagging. We just felt like it was better off…he probably could have maybe played through it this year, but he was in a lot of pain. Rather than mask the pain with painkillers and risk further injury, he and his family decided it was better to clean it up now, get it behind us.

“It’s unfortunate he’ll miss the offseason and miss the Costa Rica trip, but he’s at every practice soaking things in mentally. Physically, he’s a strong guy, a mature guy. He’s put a lot of time in the gym over the last four or five years of his career. That stuff should come back hopefully relatively quickly. Having Mason Faulkner at 100 percent is a heck of a lot better than having him at 60 or 70 percent, which is basically where he was operating.”

Faulkner averaged 16.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 4.8 assists in 22 games last season at Western Carolina. He shot .455 overall and .355 (33-for-93) from 3-point range. In two seasons at Western Carolina, the 6-foot-1 Faulkner averaged 5.8 rebounds and 5.5 assists, and he still is expected to compete for a significant role at the one or two-guard spots in a deep cast of players set to include returning starter Eli Parquet, Keeshawn Barthelemy, Nique Clifford, KJ Simpson, Julian Hammond, and Ruffin.

Given the 2021-22 season will be Faulkner’s sixth season of college basketball at his third stop — he began his collegiate career with two seasons at Northern Kentucky, and he is taking advantage of the NCAA’s one-year pandemic eligibility relief — there is a belief he can get up to speed with his new team more expediently than a freshman like Ruffin.

“Mentally, he’s a little bit more mature, a little more experienced,” Boyle said. “It’s still going to be new for him. But it’s better for him than it would be for one of our true freshmen.”

Per NCAA rules, teams are allowed 10 practices ahead of summer international exhibition trips, like the one the Buffs are taking in August to Costa Rica. On Thursday morning CU will hold the last of its first set of five practices, with the next five to come just ahead of the trip.