On Thursday the University of Colorado Men’s Basketball team had their annual Media Day at the Coors Event Center in Boulder, where head coach Jeff Bzdelik addressed local Boulder and Denver media.
Throughout the entire 22-minute press conference, Bzdelik stressed that the team is still rebuilding, and is extremely young.
In the Big-12 coaches’ poll released last week, Colorado was picked to finish last in the conference. However, the team is heading in the right direction said Bzdelik.
“We’re exactly where we want to be at this stage of the rebuilding process,” Bzdelik said. “If you recall when I first became the head basketball coach here I said ‘I can’t wave a magic wand and have this thing turn around over night.’”
For Bzdelik, it was all about keeping the team competitive without compromising the team and the school’s integrity.
“Our goal, our vision is to win and put ourselves in position for postseason play – and have success in postseason play,” Bzdelik said. “But to do so without compromising the moral and academic integrity of our university, so here we are with one senior and one junior on the roster on scholarship.”
For this young team, that means be ready to work in the classroom and be prepared to earn their scholarship.
“I want the vision to be clear, and the vision is to win and to do so without compromising the moral and academic integrity of this great university,” Bzdelik said. “My players will go to class, please and thank you are nice words, you can have excellence without arrogance—you can.”
The Buffs lost three scoring seniors from last year in Richard Roby, Marcus Hall, and Marcus King Stockton; leaving the door wide open for underclassman to come in right away and make an impact.
With the bulk of last year’s scoring from two players (Roby and Hall), Bzdelik is looking for a better balance with scoring from all positions, similar to the play he instituted at the Air Force Academy.
“I think we are going to have better balance, we’re going to be able to shoot the ball from all positions,” Bzdelik said. “I think a strength of this team can be its scoring – again from all positions.”
With this season looking like a continuation of last year’s rebuilding year, Bzdelik admits he’s still not a patient man but has begun to look at the big picture.
“To build this into a team that is a well oiled machine in the future, quick fixed don’t equate into a solid foundation that will last for a long, long time.,” Bzdelik said.
Bzdelik hasn’t set a starting lineup or inform his players if they will start the season because he doesn’t want them to get too comfortable.
“We’ll have a top eight or nine rotation, I’m sure of that.” Bzdelik said. “I’m not going to mention any names because guys will get comfortable and I don’t want guys to ever get comfortable with me.”
The team added a bunch of freshman as well as the return of a few key players from last season.
One of those is sophomore Cory Higgins, who spent a portion of his summer with Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Bobcats at their pre-draft camp.
“To have the opportunity that Cory had to hang with Michael [Jordan], and to be in the gym with him on a daily basis coupled with Cory’s drive to be the best player he wants to be, he has improved a lot,” Bzdelik said.
Another familiar face on the team is fellow sophomore Levi Knutson, who according to Bzdelik had a great summer.
Knutson, a Colorado kid had shown great promise for the squad last season averaging 4.6 points per game in only 584 minutes of playing time.
Higgins and Knutson has helped provide a base for not only the team, but for recruiting in Colorado as well.
“Well, obviously we want to keep the best players from this state here,” Bzdelik said. “By the time [Higgins and Knutson] are upperclassmen, by their senior and junior year we want to have a well oiled machine that is experienced and scared a little bit that is just ready to take off. That is where we are headed and we’re right on target.”
The Buffs will also finally welcomed Casey Crawford who sat out last season after transferring from Wake Forest.
Crawford, who was the Gatorade Play of the Year in the state of Kansas coming out of High School will add a better shooting range for the team.
“It’s interesting, every time we’ve had practice with defenders, Casey has drilled a few threes in just a couple of minutes and that really stretches the defense out,” said Bzdelik.
The freshman class this year is led by Austin Dufault from Killder, N.D., Trey Eckloff from Englewood, Ryan Kelley from Pomoma, Calif., Toby Veal from Savannah, Ga., and Nate Tomlinson from Sydney, Australia.
Tomlinson, is the first ever CU basketball player from Australia, but has played the last two years at Lee Academy in Maine.
For Tomlinson, he just loves being part of the team, in fact that and the coaching staff was a big reason why he chose Colorado.
“I chose Colorado because of all these guys here, all these guys, the Basketball program, Coach Bzdelik, all the coaching staff, and just the city of Boulder,” Tomlinson said.
Also new this season will be the Men’s Locker Room and the basketball floor at the Coors Events Center.
“Our locker room is state of the art and the brand new court, it is a court that—knock on wood—is the best designed court for wear and tear on ankles, back, knees and joints,” Bzdelik said.
Last season the Buffs finished 12-20, but the start of this season will be very favorable with the team playing nine of their first 15 games at home. In fact they don’t play anyone big until November 29 when they play at Stanford, meaning CU could get off to a great start.
The team will start practicing on Oct. 17, and play their first game on Nov. 14 against Arkansas- Pine Bluff. But fans will need to realize that this season is going to be tough, but in the long run, it will be well worth it.
“Yes, we’re going to be young and our fans are going to have to understand that and our guys are going to give forth a great effort. I know that,” Bzdelik said. “How that translates into wins and losses I don’t know that but we will see, we’ll just work to get better every day.”