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Excitement and curiosity prevailed at the CU men’s basketball media day, where new coaches, new players and maturing veterans all gathered to talk to the press about the upcoming 2007 season.
Looking to rebound from a disappointing 7-20 finish last season, the arrival of new head coach Jeff Bzdelik promises a new beginning for CU basketball.
“When you come into a new situation, you have to create an environment conducive to winning,” Bzdelik said. “Everything — the classroom, the citizenship, the pre-practice, during practice, post-practice, everything, 24-7 — all that has to be re-shaped, so to speak.”
Bzdelik, who coached at the Air Force Academy, led the Falcons to a 50-16 record in his time with the program. He also spent 15 years in the NBA as a coach and a scout including two and a half seasons as head coach of the Denver Nuggets.
Perhaps the biggest uncertainty is if the team will be able to adapt to Bzdelik’s new system, which requires a lot of movement and players to be comfortable interchanging positions on the court.
“They’re willing learners and they’re coachable,” Bzdelik said. “I’ve seen great effort. When I look at them, they look right back at me and when we talk there is a listening taking place.”
Bzdelik said that the players are putting in the time and effort by watching game footage from scrimmages and some of them watching the film multiple times.
“That’s a very positive sign,” Bzdelik said.
“We need to be honest here,” Bzdelik said. “We have to play with a desperate energy, with great intelligence and great team play on both ends of the court to have a chance to be competitive.”
Senior guard Marcus Hall, who missed most of last year’s season because of injury, has emerged as a leader on the team, Bzdelik said.
“I’ve been doing a lot of film and a lot of one on one with the coaches,” Hall said. “I think I picked up the offense over the summer. The faster I picked it up, the better I was able to help my teammates pick it up. I think we’re finally getting over the learning curve as a team.”
Hall described Bzdelik’s style of offense as more of a five-on-five style, as opposed to the team’s two-on-five style a year ago, stressing that all five guys on the court should have an equal opportunity to score.
The team’s ability to play team basketball with one another excites Hall.
“We have no egos,” Hall said. “No guys you can’t tell this to, you can’t tell that to. People call me a leader on this team but we’re all leaders. We all like each other. We all like playing together and pushing each other.”
Hall said a successful season would mean a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Senior stand-out guard Richard Roby shares Hall’s excitement about the 2007 season.
“Practice has been going great, we’re learning a lot of great things right now,” Roby said. “There’s definitely a sense of urgency, especially with the seniors.”
Though the Buffs are focused on learning coach Bzdelik’s new offense, the team has put an equal emphasis on defense in practice, Roby said.
“We were the fourth worst defensive team in the country last year, so that’s a big emphasis this year,” Roby said. “It’s 90 percent effort and 10 percent just knowing where to be so we just gotta get that effort there, and we should be good.”
The Buffaloes are also excited about the depth provided by the team’s promising freshmen like Levi Knutson, who one day in practice made 71 three-point shots in five minutes, Bzdelik said.
“We’re getting better and better each day,” freshman guard Cory Higgins said. “It’s been an easy transition. Coach knows what he wants from me which makes it a lot easier.”
Coming from a small town of nearly 400 people, 6-foot-11 freshman center Caleb Patterson, who coach Bzdelik believes has great potential, is adjusting to life in a metropolitan area, as well as the speed and intensity of Big 12 college basketball.
“It’s a bit of a culture shock,” Patterson said. “Coming from a small town where you know everyone. I’m just trying to get used to everything.”
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Brad Cochi at firstname.lastname@example.org.