As the saying goes, when one door closes, another opens. Jeff Bzdelik’s departure to Wake Forest opened up the opportunity for former UNC coach Tad Boyle to take over and rebuild the team, in the same manner as he had done at Northern Colorado. Though Boyle says his coaching style will remain the same, he said he believes CU is better equipped with “taller, longer, more athletic” players, a definite advantage from UNC. He expressed his excitement about the upcoming season at the pre-season press conference held Friday.
“It’s an exciting day, obviously, for Colorado basketball,” Boyle said. “Our players are excited, our coaching staff is excited, and we’ve had a tremendous pre-season.”
There is certainly much to be excited about. Just last week, senior guard Cory Higgins was named to the All-Big 12 Conference preseason first team. He was also selected to the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 list in the previous week, alongside sophomore guard Alec Burks.
Higgins has had an outstanding run so far as a Buff, starting every game. He ranks high among the likes of David Harrison, Chauncey Billups and Donnie Boyce in most games played at CU. He has led CU in scoring the past two consecutive seasons, averaging 18.9 points per game last season and scoring 587 points total, the most since the 1991-92 season. Most of all, he looks forward to his senior season.
“I want to enjoy this year,” Higgins said. “I think it will be the best year yet.”
Higgins, like most, has the NCAA tournament on the mind. Though he has had many highlights in his career as a Buff, the NCAA tournament has not been one of them.
“That’s something none of us have done. It’s a place this program hasn’t seen in some time, so it’s definitely a goal in the back of our minds,” Higgins said in a news release. “The Baylor game last year was a highlight, but I want to create more [highlights] this year.”
Boyle said he prefers to take the season one step at a time. Instead of focusing on long-term wins, his strategy relies on what it takes to win because of preparation, mindset and execution.
“I think roughly 85 percent of college basketball games are won before they’re even played,” Boyle said.He has expectations in mind, even if he has not hammered down specifics yet. As the team continues to improve and show strides in practice, Boyle’s expectations stay consistent.
“All I’m concerned about it, is what our internal expectations are of ourselves as teammates, as players, and as coaches,” he said.
Boyle will focus on an up-tempo style and capitalize on the offensive skill and athleticism that the team already possesses. Defensively, he wants to play man-to-man and improve the team’s rebounding. In contrast to offense, he said he believes these are the two major areas that can be taught and improved upon considerably.
Burks said defense was going to be the theme this year.
“We’re going to play defense this year,” Burks said. “We’re going to play hard on defense and get some fast break points.”
Burks played the 2009-10 season not only as a freshman standout, but also as an overall standout. An All-Big 12 Honorable Mention, Burks was only second to Higgins in scoring in the 2009-10 season with 512 total points, making him the only freshman in CU history to surpass 500 points. Despite all the hype, Boyle said Burks has handled himself very well.
Redshirt-freshman guard Shannon Sharpe of Corona, Calif., freshman center Ben Mills of Hartland, Wis. and freshman guard Andre Roberson of San Antonio, Texas will join the Buffs this season. Sharpe suffered a left knee injury last October and underwent micro-fracture surgery, missing the entire 2009-10 season. Boyle gave positive reports of Sharpe’s performance during practices, noting his consistent improvement.
It seems Boyle’s optimism for the upcoming season is not letting up.
“I’ll be honest, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with everybody,” Boyle said. “I guess the flip side of the question may be, ‘are there any disappointments?’ And there haven’t been any disappointments yet.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Mackenzie Carroll at email@example.com