The big story entering CU’s 2006-2007 men’s basketball season was a roster chock full of first-year players–a program-record eight, to be exact.
And as one might expect with so many young players on a roster, the Buffs struggled this season to find traction in a league that isn’t forgiving of youth and inexperience.
At the midway point of the conference season CU is 5-13 overall and just 1-7 in the conference. Losing is new to CU’s freshmen, but they are learning that high school basketball and Big 12 basketball are worlds apart.
“I never expected this much,” said freshman point guard Kal Bay, referring to the physical nature of Big 12 basketball. “I wanted to come play in the Big 12, and I love it here, but it’s definitely a challenge,” Bay said. “I’ll say this, at night I’m really tired.”
The stats show CU’s freshmen have a right to be a little tired. They comprise 40 percent of the team’s scoring and almost half of the team’s minutes played. This is a heavy load for any group of young guys, freshmen status notwithstanding.
The three big contributors thus far in CU’s freshman class are Bay, Xavier Silas and Jeremy Williams.
No CU freshman was thrown into the fire more than Williams. As a 6-foot-7-inch wing player, he was forced to bang against bigger bodies all season due to the Buffs dearth of post players. Williams is averaging 7.9 points and just under 6 rebounds a game and said he understands what is needed of him.
“I would like to be on the wing a little more, but right now down-low is where I’m helping my team,” Williams said.
Another freshman who has stepped up during his first year on campus is 6-foot-5-inch guard Silas, who shows toughness and a competitive streak much more than the team’s other freshmen.
Silas’ recent scuffle with junior Richard Roby in a huddle during the team’s game this week against Baylor speaks to his level of emotion.
Silas dismissed the incident by calling it “just a heated moment between two teammates who want to win.”
Dispute or not, Silas’ scoring is increasing steadily throughout the conference season and he credits playing time with his new comfort level on the court.
“Experience. Now that (the freshmen) have played some games and have some experience under our belts, it just feels like we’re not as nervous,” Silas said.
Silas is second on the team in scoring (11.8 ppg) and has the advantage of having his father, James, around.
James Silas was an eight-year NBA player for the San Antonio Spurs and has a second home in Boulder so he can see all of his son’s home games. The younger Silas said his dad is helpful, and at times, critical.
“I can always go to him and talk to him if I’m having trouble on or off the court,” Silas said. “He says I have to work on my defense and knock down my free throws. I just listen to him because he has the experience of being where I want to be.”
CU’s freshmen are already challenged in adjusting to the college game, and now they must face their head coach leaving at the end of the season. Bay admits that knowing Coach Patton will be gone makes for a weird situation.
“We don’t really feel we can go to the coaches as much as you would if you knew they were going to be here next year,” Bay said. “We lean on each other a lot, about our problems and just how we’re feeling.”
Williams agreed with Bay that the freshmen on the team still have a close bond despite the poor record.
“Yeah, we still feel really close. We hang out whenever we have the chance,” Williams said.
Patton said his young guys are close and are improving despite the team’s poor record.
“I think all the freshmen are getting better, but they’re still trying to find their way. There’s no doubt that these freshmen stay together and leadership will emerge in some way,” Patton said.
Silas believes he and his peers can no longer consider themselves freshmen.
“I think (the youth factor) is over. I mean, we’re almost sophomores now. I count myself as a sophomore with as much as I’ve played and the experience that I have,” Silas said.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Stirling Wade at email@example.com.