Tad Boyle’s program has continued to take baby steps forward in part because we’ve been asking younger players to fill roles that, in large part, they are simply not yet equipped to fill. Never has that been more evident than this year, where various injuries to (sigh) Spencer Dinwiddie, Tre’Shaun Fletcher, and Wesley Gordon have forced players like Jaron Hopkins and Dustin Thomas into the starting lineup, and they have shown that they still need time to marinate before becoming as richly delicious as we expected... to be honest, I’m not entirely comfortable with this analogy, so let’s just move on.
The point is, our freshmen recently have been players who need to be developed, not necessarily who are ready to step in from day one. (sigh) Dinwiddie and Xavier Johnson were able to ease into their roles thanks to the presence of seniors like Nate Tomlinson and Sabatino Chen, and Wesley Gordon had the benefit of a redshirt year. Josh Scott benefitted from having first round pick Andre Roberson next to him. That’s the way it should be. With that in mind, how do Miller and Collier fit into the team and into the larger program as a whole?
First, to Miller: At 6’8" and 250ish pounds, Miller is more physically ready for the college game than any signee in recent memory. For pretty much every recruit, we’ve started speaking of him with the caveat, "well, once he puts on some weight dot dot dot." With Miller, if we started with that, we’d be talking about him as our next left tackle, not our next presence on the low block. That is hugely (pun thoroughly intended) important. With him we have a player thoroughly equipped to step into the role we need him to fill, which is that of a third big man capableing with the other bruisers thrown out on the floor by the rest of the conference.
Miller can ably step in when either Gordon or Scott needs a blow while allowing Johnson and Thomas to continue to flourish on the wing. While both are willing, both would also be served best by roaming the baselines and flashing into the lanes when necessary, but they, and the team, are ill served when asked to be a low post presence on either end. Miller, as a bully of the block*, allows both of them to develop their games to the maximum that their respective talents allow. Messrs. Wear (X2), Bachynski, Heustis, Powell and the like have all been able to pound the paint against CU, forcing coach Boyle to adjust his schemes accordingly. And although all of the aforementioned will be moving on in due haste- their replacements are coming. Tory Miller ensures that Colorado will be well prepared to meet said replacements. Kaleb Tarczewski and Tony Parker aren't going away any time soon. Also, Miller can do this:
Next and finally on our trip around the 2014 recruiting class is point guard Dom Collier out of our own Denver East High School. While he is more highly rated than Miller, his role within the program is more muddled and his high school performance enhances that thought. As I type this, I am reading twitter updates from friends of the Ralphie Report that Dom is scoring all of the points against Highlands Ranch in the 5A quarterfinals. That’s not necessarily what we need him to do going forward; he has been recruited to be the high level, pass first point guard that Colorado hasn’t had since… since pretty much as long as I have been watching Colorado basketball. From Rivals scouting guru Eric Bossi last year:
Thin floor general is very quick with the ball and finds ways to slip to the rim. Lacks strength that hurts him when trying to finish at times. Jump shot is improving and his first step and handle should allow him to be a good drive and kick.
That’s all good, but it also reminds of the way I would describe Askia Booker coming out of high school, which is the larger issue (issue not being a bad thing at all, by the way). How does he fit in to the overall team? I’m dismissing the question of how he fits in if (sigh) Dinwiddie comes back, but he enters a guard rotation with Booker, Hopkins, and Xavier Talton, who has seen his game grow and thrive in the absence of (sigh) Dinwiddie. Also in the mix is Eli Stalzer, who has proven to be quite capable in spurts. As a freshman point guard, he will need to show leadership on the floor with older, more established teammates surrounding him.
That’s not a bad position to be in, but also not an easy one. I expect that Collier will hear his name called in the starting lineup, if not to start the year then certainly by conference play, and will flourish with the weapons around him. How he plays defense will ultimately decide his minutes, as it does for every Tad Boyle recruit. If he became an effective weapon from distance (say, 38%) and from the stripe, he could prove to be the player- with this coach and this team- we look back on who ushered Colorado basketball onto the national level. No pressure though.
Ultimately, as a program builder, Boyle needs to develop his players, recruit to his system, and recruit players who are better than those that came before. With Tory Miller and Dominique Collier, I believe that Boyle is doing just that.
*Did anyone get the Freestyle Fellowship reference? No? I'll see myself out