Contact CU Independent Assistant Sports Editor Alissa Noe at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @crazysportgirl1.
Looking ahead to the 2015-16 season, men’s basketball beat writer Alissa Noe will preview each position of the University of Colorado men’s basketball team. Today, we’re looking at the backcourt.
With the exit of point guard Askia Booker last year, the Buffs will now look to sophomore guard Dom Collier to step up his game and lead this Buffaloes team. Last year, Collier averaged only 4.7 points and 1.7 rebounds, but that was due to his struggle with confidence during games. During the offseason, Collier has regained his confidence and is ready to stampede on the court with his team.
“Just the main thing is if I make a mistake, just to get over my mistake and not dwell on my mistakes as much,” Collier said. “That usually brings down my confidence, so just moving on from my mistake and I feel that can help my confidence too. And then other guys and coaches give me encouragement.”
Look for him to play a more defined role on the team this year.
Though junior transfer Josh Fortune didn’t see any action last year, he’s ready to make a big impact for the Buffaloes. In his last season at Providence College, he averaged 8.4 points and 2.1 assists per game. He came into Colorado last season as more of a pure shooter, but he’s had the past year to work on the rest of his game, which is something he’s confident has improved.
“I spent a lot of time over the summer and up to this point working on my defense and ball-handling and just getting better with my teammates,” Fortune said. “I’m looking forward to playing.”
Watch out for the Buffaloes to rely heavily on their added good Fortune.
After deciding to redshirt during his true sophomore year last year, George King is eager to get back in action. At practice so far this year, King has showed that he’s made the necessary changes to his game and has improved greatly. He makes all-around smarter plays and above all makes much better shot selections. Undoubtedly, fans will see a much different player than they saw two years ago because his year behind the scenes paid off.
“George is certainly a weapon and a matchup issue for opposing teams because he has a skill set that can really make it difficult for the opponent,” Head Coach Tad Boyle said. “He’s so big and strong as a perimeter (player). He can get them to the rim and even post them up and overpower them.”
This year, the Buffaloes welcome freshman guard Thomas Akyazili, who made his way over to America after excelling in hoops in Belgium and the Under-16 and Under-18 European Championships. When Akyazili played for the U-18 team last summer, he averaged 15.6 points, 4.6 assists and 4.1 rebounds. Although the pace of the game between Europe and the States is much different, Akyazili has adjusted well to Boyle’s style of play.
“I am really pleased with where he is relative to all of the things that are being thrown at him,” Boyle said. “Everything is new to him, being in a new country, a new campus, a new university. Everything is new. He’s really processing it well. He’s very coachable. He’s in the gym all the time and he wants to be good.”
Look for Akyazili to come off the bench and possibly contribute significant minutes later on during the season.
After finishing last season averaging 4.3 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists, senior Xavier Talton will look to improve his stock and contribute more minutes for his team. Last year, he proved to be a good team player and moved the ball well, but the Buffs will look to him this season to aid them more in shooting the ball.
Last season, the now-senior Eli Stalzer didn’t contribute much. He played an average of 5.9 minutes across 19 games and added 1.4 points a game and 0.6 rebounds. If Stalzer wants to see more playing time this year, he’ll have to focus on improving his shot selection and upping his defensive game.
Senior Brett Brady, who walked onto the team two seasons back after serving as a practice player his freshman year, sits among the ranks of Stalzer and fellow bench players. Though he has yet to see more than five minutes of playing time in a single game, Brady has some hidden talents up his sleeve. In practice, Brady has proven to be a three-point machine as he knocks down shot after shot without slowing down. When Brady hits the court this year, he’ll surely focus on that aspect of his game to help out the team.
Sophomore walk-on Josh Repine only played in four games last season, but he may have a better chance of seeing some action this year. Aside from opening opponent Iowa State and possibly Brigham Young, the Buffs don’t have a very difficult non-conference schedule this year. Who knows? Repine might see more than four minutes of action this season.
Freshman walk-on Mitch Lombard achieved his dream when he committed to the Buffaloes earlier this year, and he’s hoping that he’ll be able to help his team out in whatever way he can. Though Lombard admitted that he still needs to catch up to the pace of college ball, there’s no denying that he played well in high school. At Rock Canyon High School in Castle Pines, Colorado, Lombard averaged 15.6 points per game and 4.8 assists.
“I was fortunate enough to be able to come here every summer and get into that more, so that helped,” Lombard said. “But I just need to get stronger, more athletic and as my time here increases, I’ll learn the offense and things like that more. It’s just getting comfortable right now and improvement.”
We’ll just have to wait and see what’s in store for Lombard this season.
Wait for next year:
Redshirt senior Derrick White must sit out for a year per NCAA regulations after transferring from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs this season, but there’s no question that he’ll be getting big minutes for the Buffaloes next year. In just three years with the Mountain Lions, White amassed 1,912 career points, 513 rebounds and 343 assists. He’s shown a high basketball IQ in practices with his new squad this year, and even Boyle has nothing but praise for the veteran player.
“Derrick White is a terrific player,” Boyle said. “I don’t want to get too excited because we don’t get him for a year from now, but I think he’s got the strength, he’s got the speed, he’s got the skill, he’s got the feel. He’s going to be a heck of a player for us. I wish we had him this year.”
You can catch the Buffaloes in action this Friday, Nov. 13 as they take on No. 7 Iowa State in South Dakota. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. on ESPN2.