KANSAS CITY — The Colorado basketball program was in a sorry state when officials approached Jeff Bzdelik to be the next coach.
The Buffaloes had just finished last in the Big 12 and drew crowds of less than 4,000 people for 12 of their 15 games in the Coors Events Center, which has a capacity of 11,076. A game against Northern Colorado saw only 1,441 fans come out.
When Colorado chancellor George Peterson and athletic director Mike Bohn came to Bzdelik’s house to talk about the job, the potential coach made sure things were clear.
“The first thing I said to the chancellor was, ‘Yes, you have a beautiful location, you have a great academic institution, but you do have the worst facility in the Big 12,’” Bzdelik said. “‘And we’re kidding ourselves, you’re kidding yourself, if you think you can compete on a yearly basis in this league.”
Since then, Bzdelik was hired and, at the Big 12 media day in Kansas City, he said the school is putting $950,000 into a basketball operations center, $750,000 into a new locker room, and it is in his contract to build a practice facility within three years.
“You need to have an environment conducive to winning,” Bzdelik said. “And that comes off the court as much as on the court.”
Colorado hired Bzdelik from Air Force, where in two years he went 50-16, the best two-year win total in program history. Before that, he spent two and a half years as the coach for the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, leading them to the playoffs in 2003-04.
Bzdelik inherits a relatively intact lineup this season. The Buffaloes return four of five starters, including last year’s leading scorers in guards Richard Roby and Xavier Silas. Roby, a senior, has been on NBA mock drafts after each season at Colorado, while Silas was the team’s second most prolific scorer as a freshman.
“Everything is going great,” Roby said. “Everybody is excited about the season.”
Colorado still has some work to do — the Buffaloes were picked to finish last by conference coaches — but Bzdelik, who didn’t even have to move houses when he changed jobs, insists he is in it for the long haul.
“I understand it’s a great challenge,” Bzdelik said. “It’s a great league with great coaches, great tradition, great talent, and I have both eyes open.”
RUSH UPDATE: Kansas guard Brandon Rush is not expected to return until around Dec. 1, exactly six months after surgery for a torn ACL, coach Bill Self said.
“It’s too early to have a definite timetable, because he goes through some late-round tests, so to speak,” Self said. “When that occurs he’ll be released full speed, no contact, and then how quickly he comes after that remains to be seen.”
Rush, who led the Jayhawks with 13.8 points per game last season, tore his ACL during a pickup game in May.
FRESHMAN PHENOM: Texas coach Rick Barnes was asked if there could be unfair expectations for freshmen after the success of Kevin Durant last year.
The question was likely in reference to Kansas State freshman forward Michael Beasley, who was ranked the No. 1 recruit in the nation by Rivals.com. Beasley is listed at 6 feet, 9 inches and 235 pounds. Durant, the second ranked recruit of 2006, was listed at 6-9, 204 pounds.
“If anybody compared people with Kevin, that’s a mistake,” Barnes said. “A year ago, I remember coming to this, that I told people if you didn’t look at Kevin Durant as a freshman, I thought he’d be the best player in college basketball.”
He added, “I don’t know if anybody is comparing anybody to Kevin right now, but if they are, it’s not fair.”
Durant averaged 25.8 points and 11.1 rebounds in his only season at Texas and took home the Naismith and Wooden awards, given to the nation’s best player.
REPLACING LAW: Donald Sloan is not necessarily replacing consensus All-American Acie Law as Texas A&M’s point guard this season. Sloan, a sophomore, was Law’s backup last season and averaged 5.2 points for the Aggies.
New coach Mark Turgeon said Sloan didn’t play enough last season to be considered the starting point guard and that he might play off the ball at times as well.
“Donald is going to play some point for us,” Turgeon said. “Whether he’s going to be our starting point guard or not has not been determined.”
Turgeon said senior Dominique Kirk and freshman B.J. Jones will also compete for the starting point guard position.
BAYLOR RISING: Curtis Jerrells, who torched Missouri with 33 points in a 97-83 win in the Big 12 Tournament last year, was named preseason All-Big 12 and is bringing some hope back to Waco.
“For the first time since we’ve been at Baylor, one of the first practices I looked at our staff and I thought, ‘We actually have the players out here knowing where to go and what to do,” coach Scott Drew said.
The junior guard, who led Baylor in scoring and assists last season, spent time at an Adidas camp this summer and came back with noticeable improvement.
“He has better rotation on the shot, better arch on his shot, seems to be more confident on it,” Drew said. “So hopefully that continues.”
Baylor was picked to finish ninth in the Big 12 preseason coaches poll, up from last year’s 11th place finish.
CLEANING UP: Oklahoma State will not tolerate any more legal trouble after three players were arrested during the offseason.
“This is not going to happen again,” coach Sean Sutton said. “The next time it happens that person is out the door.”
Sophomore Obi Muonelo, Junior Terrel Harris and senior Marcus Dove were all arrested for various reasons over the summer but are on the team again this year.
“We’ve always taken great pride in our players doing the right things, conducting themselves in a first-class manner,” Sutton said. “And it’s unfortunate because all three of those guys had worked their tails off this summer.”