Players Relieved, Excited

CU basketball players who didn't have class conflicts showed up outside the University Memorial Center where Jeff Bzdelik's press conference was held Wednesday morning. The players were carrying backpacks, as students usually do these days, but they looked as though a weight had been lifted from their shoulders.

The Colorado players, including eight freshmen, toiled under a lame-duck coach the past year. To their credit, they continued playing hard into March, but it became obvious that Ricardo Patton's impending departure took its toll on the team.

On Wednesday, several said they're glad the coaching search process is over and that they are looking forward to playing for Jeff Bzdelik.

"I'm excited. I know the other guys are too," forward Sean Kowal said. "It's a whole different year, a whole new season. It's going to be crazy. He's going to do a lot of things for us. He expects us to work hard and we know that. He has really high expectations, which he should."

The players and Bzdelik were first introduced to each other Tuesday night in Lone Tree. Bzdelik said he came away impressed.

"I can tell a lot about how a player looks at me," he said. "Every one of those players looked me straight in the eye. They want to succeed. They want to be good. They want to get better. I'm so impressed with them."

Point guard Kal Bay said the players will benefit from Bzdelik's teaching style.

"Coach Bzdelik is a teacher," Bay said. "That's something we all need. Everything in practice, we're going to know why we're going to do it and why it's going to help us."

Bay said players didn't always know why they were doing certain drills in practice last year. It's a sentiment others have echoed.

"We weren't always sure why we were doing a drill, or doing what we were doing in practice," Bay said. "I think some guys just got lost during the year and kind of wanted to move on. It got tough at the end of the year.

"Now that we're (beyond that) it's just so refreshing."

Richard Roby, CU's leading scorer the past two seasons, hinted there may be a period of adjustment.

"It's kind of scary having a new coach after having the same one for three years, but [Bzdelik] has coached a lot of great players and he has a lot of knowledge about the game that he can share with us," said Roby, whose brother Kenyon Martin played under Bzdelik for the Nuggets. "I'll certainly listen to him to get better."

The process begins Friday when the team will hold two two-hour practices. Teams are allowed two hours contact with their coach this time of year to work on court skills. Six players will practice in the morning, and seven in the afternoon.

Bzdelik also laid out what he expects from his players.

"We can control a lot of things that have nothing to do with skill," he said. "We can be the hardest working, best conditioned, most unselfish, meanest, nastiest basketball team in this country. That we can do. And we need to do that to even have a chance for success."

Bzdelik will install a similar style offense that he used at Air Force. His teams were 50-16 the past two seasons, despite having a roster of overachievers. Bzdelik said he may tweak it a bit, and it may be reminiscent of the way Washington State, West Virginia and Georgetown play.

It's a style that employs cutting, screens and back-door passes, often using most of the shot clock on a possession. It's a style of play unfamiliar to most in the Big 12, a fact CU will try and use to its advantage.

"I want to make the game uncomfortable for our opponents," he said.

Bay is confident he and his teammates can learn the offense sooner rather than later.

"I think it'll be perfect, not only for myself, but a lot of the other guys," he said. "Guys like Richard Roby, it's going to set him up for easier shots. Plus, it's going to be tough to double anybody in this style."

Only time will tell how quickly CU can find success under Bzdelik. But on Wednesday, players were just glad to have a coach.

"I think everyone is excited to get into the gym with him and see what his practices are like, see how he wants us to do things and get to work," Xavier Silas said. "Everyone is really anxious and excited for the next season to start."

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