When the Colorado men's basketball team lost star point guard Spencer Dinwiddie to a season-ending knee injury on Jan. 12, it changed the Buffaloes' season.
It wasn't just Dinwiddie they lost that day, though. Playing in front of his family and friends in Seattle, freshman Tre'Shaun Fletcher went down with a knee injury, too.
Fletcher came back late in the year, but played just 30 minutes over the course of four games the rest of the season.
Six months later, the sophomore guard/forward is champing at the bit to start making an impact again.
"I feel like I can have a good year this year if I keep my shot consistent and play defense and rebound, like coach (Tad) Boyle wants," Fletcher said.
While many of his out-of-state teammates have gone home for the summer, Fletcher remains in Boulder. He sacrificed spending time with family and friends in Tacoma, Washington, so he could be close to CU's training facilities, as well as pick up a few extra credits academically.
"It wasn't hard at all," he said of the decision to stay, "because I knew if I wanted to be the player I want to be, I've got to make sacrifices.
"It's going pretty good. I'm just making sure my knee is ready, and making sure that I'm ready physically."
Just a few minutes after Dinwiddie tore his ACL, Fletcher tore the MCL and meniscus in his left knee. He missed 14 games and then played sparingly in the last four games.
Prior to the injury, Fletcher was becoming more of a reliable option off the bench for Boyle and the Buffs. Upon returning, he didn't play enough to make an impact.
Today, Fletcher said his knee is fully healed, but he's still working his way into shape.
"The doctor said it'll be months before it feels like my right knee," he said. "It doesn't hurt, but it doesn't feel like this (right) knee. I felt like towards the end of the season I was kind of babying it, and I'm just trying to not think about it and act like it never happened."
He's well on his way. In fact, Fletcher said he feels as good, if not better, than he did during his freshman season. He's even added a little weight, going up to 212 pounds. He played at 206-208 last year and hopes to play at around 215 this coming season.
Although he struggled from beyond the 3-point line (as many of his teammates did last year), Fletcher shot the ball well from inside the arc. He also, at times, flashed his skills in rebounding and playing defense. If Fletcher can put it all together, he could be one of the top players on the team.
As the Buffs look ahead to the 2014-15 season, they figure to have a bunch of players battling for court time. Fletcher is among them, and the coaches are excited to see what he can do with a full season.
Associate head coach Jean Prioleau said Fletcher needs to work on his ball-handling and decision making — as most of the players do — and said he sees Fletcher improving.
"I think he'll be fine," Prioleau said. "He loves to compete."
Fletcher will get a chance to compete next month. He will play in the Athletes in Action Tour to Estonia and Latvia in mid-August. The team, which will be led by CU assistant Mike Rohn, includes about a dozen Division I players from around the country.
The team will train in Boulder for a few days in early August before leaving Aug. 6 for Estonia.
Fletcher said he's excited for the opportunity to experience another culture, because he's never been out of the U.S. He's also eager to get an early test for his knee.
"I'm excited about that, because I feel like there's going to be good competition over there," he said.
When he gets back, Fletcher will put his focus on making himself - and the Buffs — better.
"I'm going to compete every day to try to get there (into a starting role), but if it doesn't happen, I'll be happy to come off the bench," he said. "I just want to get some wins this year."