Struggles a New Experience for CU Freshmen

It would take a miracle turnaround for this year's CU basketball team to finish with a winning record. For members of CU's large freshmen class, losing is a new experience. But it's one they say, in the long run, they don't plan to get used to.

Kal Bay's high school team in Tempe, Ariz., Marcos De Niza, lost just one game when he was on the floor his senior season. Xavier Silas' Brewster Prep team was 19-9. Jeremy Williams' senior squad went a remarkable 39-0.

With the Buffs 5-10 this season, needless to say, the group of seven scholarship freshmen at Colorado are going through something they're not used to.

"It's been very difficult," Bay admitted Monday about CU's 10 losses. "It's been something I haven't adjusted to and something I don't plan on adjusting to. I love winning and that's why I play."

Several freshmen are playing key roles on this year's team. Silas is third on the team in scoring (10.9 ppg), Williams has played well off the bench and in the starting lineup, Bay appears to be the team's best 3-point shooter and Dwight Thorne and Sean Kowal have contributed off the bench, as well. To their credit, the freshmen have shown resiliency amid the mounting losses so far.

"I haven't seen that look about them where they've hung their heads," head coach Ricardo Patton said. "We haven't had to address that.

"We have been in most cases our own worst enemy, in terms of turning the ball over and taking quick shots on the offensive end. And quick shots and turnovers the majority of the time lead to layups on the other end for your opponent. So it's just getting them to understand the value of each possession. They're young, but they're growing. I see some signs of growth."

Bay said hanging heads and getting down won't serve the team's ultimate purpose of winning.

"It's something where you've just got to be mentally tough," he said. "You've got to stick together as a team and continue to push each other every day and convince one another and yourself that you can get through this and you can start winning some ball games.

"You push each other in practice, you push each other off the basketball court. You stay together. It's very difficult. But you have to stay together. If you become individuals, there's no way we can win. At times it seems like we are individuals on the court and that's when we lose focus and have cost ourselves some games."

While Patton said he hasn't had to talk to his freshmen players about hanging their heads amid this season's struggles, he has pointed out something about the Texas A&M Aggies. Patton first mentioned to the media following CU's loss at home to A&M on Jan. 13, then brought it up to his freshmen last week. He said there are players on the Aggies, a team currently ranked in the top 10 in the country and in first pace in the Big 12, who were freshmen on A&M's 2003-04 team that went 0-17 in conference play that season.

To be exact, Acie Law and Marlon Pompey were part of that 0-17 team. It was Melvin Watkins' last season as head coach in College Station. The following season, with Billy Gillispie as head coach, Texas A&M went to the NIT, then played in the NCAA tournament last year.

"I still believe that this class of (CU freshmen) in the next couple of years is going to be a really good team," said Patton, who is coaching his final season at CU. "Particularly when you add a couple of pieces like the 7-footer (Caleb Patterson) we signed, and the shooting guard (Levi Knutson) out of Denver. And then the next coach may look to add a couple of pieces. I think a couple of years from now, this team will have some of the same success that you see teams like Texas A&M are having."

Of course, the Buffs don't want to get as far down as the 03-04 A&M team did.

"We like to hear that," Bay said of the A&M comparison, "but at the same time we don't plan on going 1-16. It was good to hear that knowing we can get better and we will get better. But we want to get better right now. That's what we work for every day."

Colorado worked the past two days to prepare for the Missouri Tigers, who are in Boulder for tonight's game (7 p.m. tip, FSRM). As much as CU has struggled, they are a game ahead of Missouri in the conference standings. Missouri is 0-4 in the Big 12, 11-6 overall.

Missouri's head coach, Mike Anderson, is in his first season at Columbia. The former Arkansas assistant has brought the "40 minutes of hell" system to Missouri that was favored by his former mentor Nolan Richardson.

Patton said the Buffs wouldn't try and run with Mizzou.

"We want to be smart," Patton said. "We don't want to come down and take bad shots because they hurry us. We want to take high percentage shots and be patient enough to move the basketball until we get that shot."

• With eight points, Richard Roby will move into 14th place on CU's all-time scoring list (1,246), moving ahead of Scott Wedman. Roby should also pass Blair Wilson, who is currently No. 13 with 1,253 points, soon.

It was expected Roby would move up the charts vs. Nebraska, but he scored only one point. Patton said earlier this week, "I think good players know how to respond when they've not played one of their better games. He's just got to let that one go."

Probable Starters
Colorado
Dominique Coleman, G, 6-3, Sr., 11.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.7 apg
Xavier Silas, G, 6-5, Fr., 10.9, 4.0, 1.7
Richard Roby, G, 6-6, Jr., 17.1, 4.9, 2.3
Jermyl Jackson-Wilson, F, 6-6, So., 8.4, 6.1, 1.4
Marcus King-Stockton, F, 6-9, Jr., 3.8, 4.1, 1.1

Missouri
Jason Horton, G, 6-2, Jr., 4.6, 1.9, 3.5
Stefhon Hannah, G, 6-1, Jr., 15.4, 3.0, 4.8
Matt Lawrence, G, 6-6, 12.2, 3.5, 1.1
Marshall Brown, F, 6-6, Jr., 11.2, 3.7, 1.6
Kalen Grimes, F, 6-9, Jr., 8.0, 6.4, 1.2