Sophomore forward Xavier Johnson sat out his second straight game with an injury tonight, a 93-70 victory over Arkansas State. Johnson, a starter, got "dinged" up in practice on Friday and hasn't played a game since. In Johnson's absence, Colorado has shown just how deep they are at the wing position. Three freshmen have taken advantage of the playing time created by Johnson's void.
Tre'Shaun Fletcher, Jaron Hopkins and George King have all had their moments in Colorado's most recent contests. Sure, they've been games against low-major competition in Arkansas State and Jackson State. Nonetheless, the trio's performances will surely build their confidence going forward.
Hopkins has started in Johnson's spot the last two games, and is averaging 11 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2 assists per game while shooting 50% from the field. He's flashed his breathe-taking athleticism numerous times, slamming home several alley-oops. Some stats Head Coach Tad Boyle has to appreciate are that Hopkins has only committed one turnover and one foul in the two games.
King reeled in seven rebounds in just 11 minutes against Jackson State on Saturday, and he continued his solid play on Monday night. King scored a career-high 11 points, grabbed four rebounds and blocked one shot in 15 minutes of play. King shot 3/4 from the field, including 2/2 from three.
Fletcher finally broke out against Arkansas State. Coming into tonight's game, Fletcher had only accumulated seven points in four games, compared to ten fouls. Against Jackson State, Fletcher committed four fouls in just five minutes. Fletcher showed on Monday that he's learned from his mistakes. Fletcher played 13 minutes of foul-free basketball for Colorado. He scored a career-high nine points on 4/6 shooting from the field. Fletcher needed a game like this, where fouls weren't an issue.
Going forward, Johnson will reclaim his starting position once his body allows him to. But Colorado has to feel good about their depth at the wing position. Having a deep roster will pay off in second half of the season, and it allows players to take their time to heal from an injury. Its a very nice luxury to have.