Boyle, Buffs look to rebound from disappointing season
BOULDER, Colo. (AP) Colorado coach Tad Boyle was too soft last season and stalwart forward Josh Scott too soft spoken.
Both adamantly vow that won’t be the case again. They will be more forceful leaders.
The Buffaloes struggled to a 16-18 mark in 2014-15, ending a string of three straight NCAA Tournament appearances. What was supposed to be a promising year finished with one of their leading seniors making headlines for skipping a third-tier postseason tournament to allow his younger teammates a chance to play without him.
Just the way things went in Boyle’s first losing season at Colorado.
”Adversity shows all of your warts and when we faced adversity last year, we weren’t the most cohesive and together group,” said Boyle, who’s 108-68 in five seasons at Colorado. ”I think we’ll face adversity this year as well. I think that’s when leadership comes in.”
More precisely, Scott’s leadership.
At 6-foot-10 and 245 pounds, he rules the lane. But when it came to commanding his team, he was sometimes reluctant to admonish players.
Not so these days.
”It’s kind of hard to call out a friend, but you have to realize you have to be teammates and call each other out on our mistakes,” Scott said. ”In terms of carrying that over to this year, I’ve seen a whole lot more holding people accountable, people being more vocal, and I think that’s just going to help us this year rather than how it hurt us last year.”
Already, Boyle is taking a more hands-on approach with this team. He’s drilling them on the little things in an effort to get the program back on track.
”Hopefully, when adversity hits this year, this group can come together and galvanize together rather than not,” Boyle said. ”I don’t think last year’s team did a great job of that.”
Colorado started off rocky and never recovered. A surprise, too, with a team that boasted Scott, Askia Booker and Xavier Johnson. Booker didn’t join the squad for the CBI Tournament for his final games in a Buffs jersey.
Now, this is Scott’s team. And his balky back is up to carrying the responsibility.
”(The back) hasn’t bugged me in quite a long time. So, it’s good,” said Scott, who averaged 14.5 points and 8.4 rebounds last season.
The Buffaloes will be without Johnson for at least the start of the season. He tore his Achilles in June and isn’t expected to return until at least mid-to-late December.
”We’re going to have to make up for it,” Scott said. ”I think we’re going to be fine honestly.”
Here are things to know before the Buffaloes open the season Nov. 13 against Iowa State in Sioux Falls, South Dakota:
SO CLOSE: Scott was cut from the U.S. team for the Pan American Games over the summer. The squad earned a bronze medal and included Boyle as an assistant coach. ”It’s kind of just another chip on my shoulder for this season,” Scott said.
CARRYING THE WEIGHT: Sophomore guard Dominique Collier served as an understudy to Booker last season. The biggest thing he learned? ”Askia wasn’t afraid to fail,” Collier said. ”Feel like no one is able to guard you.”
FOREIGN INFLUENCE: Boyle brought in freshman guard Thomas Akyazili from Belgium along with forward Kenan Guzonjic, who’s from Bosnia-Herzegovina and joins Colorado after a stint at Midland Junior College in Texas. Akyazili could work his way into the rotation this season, while Guzonjic is more of a ”work in progress,” Boyle said.
BIG FORTUNE: Junior guard Josh Fortune can’t wait to take the floor after sitting out last season when he transferred in from Providence. He started all 35 games for the Friars in 2013-14 and averaged 8.4 points. ”It’s been a long time,” said Fortune, who picked Colorado over LSU and Valparaiso. ”I’m looking forward to playing again.”
STEPPING UP: With Johnson sidelined, Boyle said it falls on George King and Tre’Shaun Fletcher to help pick up the slack, especially in the rebounding department. ”It’s somebody else’s turn to step up and hopefully somebody can do that,” Boyle said.