Tre’Shaun Fletcher has not played since injuring his knee Jan. 12 at Washington, but he may play Saturday at Utah.
Tre'Shaun Fletcher has not played since injuring his knee Jan. 12 at Washington, but he may play Saturday at Utah. (Cliff Grassmick / Daily Camera)

The Colorado men's basketball team is close to getting a key player back into the fold.

Freshman forward Tre'Shaun Fletcher took another step toward returning from a knee injury when he joined practice on Tuesday. It was his first full practice with the team since his Jan. 12 injury.

"He was very tentative and not real aggressive and not real intense," CU head coach Tad Boyle said of Fletcher's first practice. "He's got to trust that knee and he's got to play with a little bit more intensity.

"It's not one of those deals where you stick one foot in the pool and check the temperature. You're jumping in with both feet and it's go time. There's no easing back into this thing. He's been doing that over last few weeks, but now it's time to jump in and start getting after it."

The 6-foot-7 Fletcher tore the MCL and meniscus in his left knee on Jan. 12 at Washington. The injury occurred about a minute after junior point guard Spencer Dinwiddie tore the ACL in his left knee.

Fletcher had surgery on Jan. 20 and has been trying to recover ever since. He has slowly resumed basketball activities and has gone through pre-game warm-ups before each of the past four games.

"They had me in some shooting drills and going through some non-contact stuff," he said. "It's a whole different game from warming up to playing."

Now comes the next step of getting back into game action. He hopes to play Saturday when the Buffaloes (20-8, 9-6 Pac-12) visit Utah (18-9, 7-8).


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"That's what they're telling me," Fletcher said of his possible return Saturday. "I'm just coming in and giving it my best effort and just trying to do whatever I can to help the team, playing defense."

Fletcher played in 16 games before his injury, all off the bench. He averaged 3.5 points and 1.8 rebounds in 10.2 minutes per game. He was also progressing as a solid defender.

"I expect him to defend and help us make plays on offense and rebound," Boyle of what he hopes to get out of Fletcher down the stretch run of the season.

Fletcher said he's not sure what to expect out of himself down the stretch, but he hopes to make an impact. He also hopes to put together a much better finish to his freshman year.

"I want to come back from this and just have a good rest of the season and have a great year next year and the following year and the following year," he said.

Bouncing back

Saturday's 88-61 loss to Arizona was one of the worst losses in Boyle's four seasons at CU. In fact, it was the second-largest margin of defeat under Boyle, topped only by a 36-point loss at Kansas on Dec. 8, 2012.

The loss to Arizona was the seventh time in the Boyle era that CU has lost by 18 points or more. The good news is that so far the Buffs are 6-0 in the game following their biggest blowout losses.

Three times the Buffs responded to a big loss with a three-game win streak and twice they bounced back by winning two in a row.

Boyle was unaware of their success following blowout losses, but offered an explanation for that success.

"As a staff, we try to learn from every situation," he said. "I do think our players want to win. I think they've got some competitiveness and toughness about them. That may be one reason.

"And, we try to really figure out what our problems are and we try to fix them."

Resting

Saturday's loss was the second by more than 20 points this season for the Buffs, the first being a 72-51 defeat at Arizona State on Jan. 25. Both losses were followed by a week off before facing Utah.

CU used that week after ASU to get better and the Buffs showed dramatic improvement. Boyle said this week may be a little different, in terms of the points of emphasis, but the goal is the same.

"We just need to continue to improve," he said. "We're not going to be changing or adding a bunch of new things. It's just fine-tuning and getting our guys' minds and bodies and spirits right for the next battle we face."

Notable

Dinwiddie said Wednesday that he will reach a rehabilitation milestone on Friday when he ditches his crutches and will be allowed to walk for the first time since his Jan. 20 surgery.

Contact BuffZone.com Writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/brianhowell33.