With two Pac-12 Player of the Year candidates in Tyler Bey and McKinley Wright, alongside a number of other potential breakout stars, it is easy to overlook the player that has been there the longest.
Although the Colorado men’s basketball team will be considered a veteran bunch in 2019-20, the Buffaloes nonetheless will feature just two seniors in Shane Gatling and Lucas Siewert. Of that duo, only Siewert is a four-year player at CU, and he is the only current Buffs player who was around the last time the program harbored lofty preseason expectations.
Siewert was a freshman in 2016-17 when the Buffs were coming off a run of four NCAA appearances in five seasons, and Siewert joined a CU team that brought back four of the key figures from the 2016 NCAA team in Dom Collier, Josh Fortune, Wesley Gordon and George King. That group was joined by Xavier Johnson, a fifth-year senior who missed the previous season due to a torn Achilles tendon, and Derrick White, whose one season at CU following a Division II All-American career at UCCS led to his selection by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the 2017 NBA draft.
The Buffs were expected to keep that NCAA streak going in 2017. Instead, CU hasn’t been back yet, and part of Siewert’s leadership role during his senior year will be to remind his teammates how quickly expectations can erode into disappointment.
“My first year here Derrick White was here, and when I first came in I didn’t know how good a player he was,” Siewert said. “As the year went on he grew and look at where he’s at now. One of the things (CU coach Tad) Boyle always talks about is how (White) never made it to the tournament. I think that was one big lesson that I learned — you don’t get that moment back. He’s never going to get that opportunity again. I have one more, so I want to make the most of it.
“The main thing is have no regrets. We have a goal this year to make it to the tournament. I’ve just got to take my senior leadership role and guide this team to get there.”
Individually, Siewert’s biggest challenge will be to put together a full, consistent season.
As a sophomore two years ago, Siewert overcame a slow start to average 11.6 points and 4.1 rebounds over the final 11 games of the season. Siewert carried that momentum into his junior year, going 14-for-22 on 3-pointers in the season’s first six games and finishing nonconference play with a gaudy .488 percentage (20-for-41) on 3-pointers.
However, Siewert couldn’t maintain that momentum. From the start of Pac-12 play through the Buffs’ three games in the NIT, the 6-foot-10 Siewert shot just .286 (24-for-84) on 3-pointers and was replaced in the starting lineup by Evan Battey. Though Siewert finished with career-best averages in scoring (8.9) and rebounds (5.0), the late slide sent Siewert into the offseason with the wrong sort of momentum.
On Saturday, Siewert revealed he struggled with some tendinitis issues in his right (shooting) wrist last season. The senior said the wound nearly required surgery but has healed completely, and if Siewert remains healthy he will finish his career among the top 10 leaders in games played in CU history.
He also is hoping to avoid becoming the first four-year player of the Boyle era to never play in the NCAA Tournament.
“Lucas’ biggest issue in the past I think has been consistency,” Boyle said. “But his body has taken another step up. He’s looks physically strong. He’s shooting the ball with a lot of confidence. I know last year he shot it well in stretches and struggled in stretches. Sometimes shooters do go into slumps. I hope we have enough of him this year we can address that.”