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When (if) healthy, Javon Ruffin hopes to make big difference for Colorado men’s basketball

BOULDER-CO-October 5:Javon Ruffin looks to pass ...
Javon Ruffin looks to pass during the University of Colorado men’s basketball media day and practice on Oct. 5 in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Javon Ruffin, Tad Boyle and the rest of the Colorado men’s basketball team could be excused if they held their collective breath for a moment during Saturday’s Black and Gold exhibition.

After showing flashes of his versatility in the backcourt during the early stages of the intrasquad scrimmage, Ruffin was forced to limp back to the locker room after turning his ankle. A sense of concern was palpable, since Ruffin has encountered nothing but tough luck on the injury front since arriving in Boulder.

Fortunately for Ruffin, in this case the injury was minor. After being a limited participant in Monday’s practice followed by an off day, the redshirt freshman returned to practice on Wednesday morning.

Still, the sequence illustrated Ruffin’s biggest challenge as the Buffs continue preseason workouts. After missing the entire 2021-22 season, Ruffin understands he can’t turn his skills into an asset if he can’t stay on the floor.

“I think it’s going really well. Just getting out there and being on the court consistently has been huge,” Ruffin said. “I think I see where I can fit into this team. I think there’s a lot of ways I can help.”

The minor ankle setback aside, the preseason workouts have allowed Ruffin his first opportunity for an extended run of pain-free workouts since joining the Buffs.

Part of the highly-touted 2021 recruiting class, Ruffin and classmate Quincy Allen were forced to take redshirt seasons a year ago due to injuries. Yet while Allen spent the entire year recovering from preseason hip surgery, Ruffin endured a litany of physical setbacks.

Ruffin already was recovering from knee surgery spurred by a dislocated kneecap when he arrived in the summer of 2021. After missing that summer’s workouts, Ruffin attempted to rejoin preseason practice last season but was forced to undergo a second minor procedure on his knee.

By midseason Ruffin was again participating in practice, hoping to at least get his feet wet at the Division I level even though a redshirt already was decided, but a back injury again sent Ruffin to the sideline and limited the start of his offseason workouts.

“We have to have him on the floor for an extended time at practice to kind of see what he’s capable of doing,” Boyle said. “I thought he showed some really good things in the scrimmage. He’s shown some good things at practice. But nothing is sustainable because he can’t stay healthy. Until we get that, it’s going to be hard to really know and depend and trust that he’s going to be ready to roll. But he’s fully capable, absolutely.”

With Boyle hinting on multiple occasions during the preseason that the point guard combo of KJ Simpson and Julian Hammond III might often get paired together on the floor, Ruffin and graduate transfer Ethan Wright are next in line to take shifts at the point. Whether those minutes tilt more heavily toward Ruffin likely will be determined in large part by his ability to stay on the floor.

“I think I’ll have a successful season and be able to do what I want if I can just manage to stay healthy and be able to come out here to practice every day,” Ruffin said. “With me being out (last year), I’d much rather be going through the struggles and pain with all my teammates than sitting there watching from the sidelines. I’m trying to help in any way that I can.”