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Most Important Buffaloes: #6 Daylen Kountz

The sophomore guard is poised for a breakout.

NCAA Basketball: Colorado at Southern California Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

It takes time for in-state recruits to adjust to major college basketball after years of dominating weak competition in Colorado. Not everyone can make that adjustment, whether it’s because they don’t have the athleticism or focus (or whatever) to make the leap to Pac-12 basketball.

Daylen Kountz came from Denver East and spent most of his freshman season adjusting. Through the first ten games of the season, he was used as a deep reserve playing less than 10 minutes per game. He looked a bit lost, like the slightly out-of-shape college freshman who is playing pick-up at the Rec for the first time.

An injury to Deleon Brown opened the door for Kountz, then an injury to Namon Wright busted it down. He had to adjust because the Buffs didn’t have any depth on the wings. By the end of the season, the Denver kid was seriously impressive as a two-way playmaker. He started making plays like this semi-regularly.

Kountz is the kind of athletic slasher who was born to get to the basket. He just has that innate feel for space, the explosiveness to exploit those gaps, and the craftiness to finish in traffic. Defensively, he’s a perimeter playmaker who is a welcome break from Tad Boyle’s conservative defensive approach. He wants to intercept passes and run in transition, and he’s good enough at it that Boyle will let him gamble.

That’s all the stuff we already saw in Kountz as a freshman. This offseason he’s been working on his jumper and his shot selection. He always wants to attack the basket, so it can be hard for him to take open shots given to him. He’s a good three-point shooter whose driving ability will improve once defenders start closing out on him harder. He also has a nasty habit of pump-faking the three, taking one dribble in and shooting a moving mid-range shot; that has to stop. The last easily improvable thing will be becoming a good cutter, considering his athleticism, feel for the game, and the fact that he’ll spend a lot of time with Evan Battey.

Kountz is going to be very important this season as the first wing off the bench, just like the end of last year but with more scoring responsibility. What’s even more important — and possibly CU’s Achilles heel if injuries happen — is that he might also be the backup point guard.

McKinley Wright is going to play 35 minutes per game, health permitting, but the Buffs still need someone running point when Kin sits. My dream is to have Battey on the floor with Kountz, run the offense through Battey in the high post and screen/cut around him to open looks. Then on defense, have as many perimeter defenders as possible, strangle the opponent, and run like hell in transition. This strategy is weird as hell, but it would make the most of Battey’s unique game while simultaneously easing Kountz into point guard responsibilities. It would also be fun, chaotic basketball.

Kountz has the scoring ability and defensive chops to be a consistent playmaker right away. Then considering his year-to-year improvements in shot selection and ability to create, there’s a lot of potential for significant growth during the season. CU beat writer Pat Rooney predicted a breakout year for Kountz, but I’ve been saying this since last February. The Kountzwagon hasn’t left the station, but tickets are selling fast.