To say that Colorado’s 2014-15 season was a disappointing one would be accurate. Picked to finish third in the Pac-12 preseason poll, the Buffaloes struggled throughout the season and finished with a record of 16-18. With Askia Booker moving on Tad Boyle’s team needs to account for the loss of its leading scorer, and the season-ending Achilles injury suffered by Xavier Johnson doesn’t help matters as Colorado looks to rebound from last season.
One of the players who will look to step forward alongside senior big man Josh Scott is redshirt sophomore George King, who was incapable of doing anything to help Colorado on the court in 2014-15. Boyle made the decision to redshirt King in hopes that the season spent working on his game without losing a year of eligibility would benefit both player and program in the long run.
And in a story by Brian Howell of the Boulder Daily Camera, King discussed how he looked to use the redshirt season to his benefit.
“The biggest thing for me was embracing it and not taking it as, ‘I’m not that good,’ ” King said. “I took it and used it as an opportunity.
“It looked like I was just sitting on the bench in the games but I was learning a lot. Obviously, practices were my games, and I worked out twice as much as the guys did, because game day was their day off (from workouts), and I was in the gym, lifting and on the court shooting.”
With Booker out of eligibility and Jaron Hopkins transferring, there’s clearly room for other perimeter options to step forward. Xavier Talton returns for his senior season, with Dominique Collier being a player many expect to be improved as a sophomore and former Providence guard Josh Fortune among the other possibilities. And with the incumbent at the three (Johnson) due to miss the entire season, Colorado will need production from Tre’Shaun Fletcher and King if they’re to rebound from a disappointing 2014-15.
Redshirt seasons have benefitted a number of players throughout college basketball, with one of the most recent examples being Gonzaga’s Kyle Wiltjer. While King isn’t the same player as Wiltjer, the hope in Boulder is that his hard work away from game action will pay off in 2015-16.
After suffering their worst loss of the season last Tuesday, Colorado enters its two-game road swing through Arizona with a 9-6 overall record (2-1 Pac-12) in need of some positive momentum. Unfortunately for head coach Tad Boyle his team isn’t at full strength ahead of their game at No. 10 Arizona, with juniors Josh Scott (back spasms) and Xavier Johnson (right high ankle sprain) both dealing with health issues.
And according to a report from Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com, neither will play Thursday night against the Wildcats.
Scott (13.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.0 bpg) missed Colorado’s conference-opening games against UCLA and USC as a result of the back spasms and was a shell of himself in the Buffaloes’ 74-49 loss at No. 9 Utah last Tuesday, scoring three points and grabbing two rebounds in 28 minutes of action.
Johnson (12.8, 5.4), who is third on the team in both scoring and rebounding, suffered his ankle injury on a shot attempt in the first half of that loss to Utah.
Without Scott and Johnson the Buffaloes won’t have much in the way of front court depth against the Wildcats, with second-leading rebounder Wesley Gordon remaining in his starting role and reserves such as Dustin Thomas and Tory Miller now needed to step forward.
Wednesday’s game against No. 9 Utah didn’t come at the best of times for the Colorado Buffaloes, who were looking to move to 3-0 in conference play after taking care of UCLA and USC last weekend. With junior forward Josh Scott missing those two games with back spasms and still at less than full strength, the Buffaloes arrived in Salt Lake City with one important health issue to address.
And early in their 74-49 loss to the Utes, Tad Boyle’s team lost a key piece as junior forward Xavier Johnson suffered a high ankle sprain. Johnson was attempting a layup, and the awkward plant resulted in the Mater Dei HS product injuring his right ankle. Johnson, who’s averaging 12.8 points and 5.4 rebounds on the season, left the game and did not return.
Ice was applied to Johnson’s ankle upon his return to the bench in the first half, and in his postgame comments Boyle noted that high ankle sprains tend to take longer to heal than sprains that occur within the joint itself.
“He twisted his ankle pretty good, and it’s higher, it’s not in the joint it’s higher up,” Boyle said after the game. “High ankle sprains are pretty nasty and we’ll get a better feel for that as it progresses. They’re very painful and they take a little longer than just the normal ankle sprain.
“We have enough guys on this team to overcome but we would certainly like to get him back as soon as possible.”
If there’s a positive to be found in this situation it’s the schedule, with the Buffaloes not having another game until they visit No. 8 Arizona January 15. Will that be enough time for Johnson to heal and remain in the starting lineup? That remains to be seen, and after being outclassed by the Utes next Thursday’s game represents an important opportunity for a team that can use a quality win on its resume.
Prior to the start of conference play Colorado went through a stretch in which they lost four of six games, with the two wins coming at the expense of Northern Colorado and DePaul (which currently sits atop the Big East standings).