As the Colorado State men’s basketball team gets closer to opening the season, it is evident that the Rams are prioritizing defense and rebounding.
CSU struggled defensively last season and their inability to get stops resulted in the Rams giving up at least 80 points in 16 games — 15 regular season games and one in the MWC Tournament.
One area that really hurt the Rams was transition defense off of rebounds or offensive turnovers. CSU averaged 11.6 turnovers per-game and opponents averaged 6.1 steals against CSU.
Following Friday’s practice, Hill College transfer guard Devocio Butler emphasized that the team is working on defensive schemes and getting it right as a unit.
“We focused on defense all practice,” Butler said. “Right now we are striving to be the best defensive team possible. I feel that we will be a way better defensive team than last year because that what he (head coach Larry Eustachy) is focusing on. One hundred percent all he is focused on is stopping people.”
Butler made it clear the coaching staff has made defense priority-one, but more than that, the players are genuinely buying in and putting in the type of work in practice to get serious results.
“We listen very well to coach and we play hard,” Butler said. “We play hard in practice. We work hard in practice. Our work ethic is our biggest strength right now.”
Eustachy has always been a hard nosed coach whose teams rebound well and play physical defense. Last season the Rams were better on the glass than their opponents, bringing down about 5.5 more rebounds per-game, but the latter lacked execution.
“Coaches know everything is about buying in,” Butler said. “Listen to him (Larry Eustachy) and we are going to win. Buy into the system and we are going to win, period. He (Eustachy) knows what he is doing. He has won in different places and he has won here.”
Although players like Butler, Che Bob and Braden Koelliker were not around to experience last season, the junior college transfers are just as ready to get out there and compete.
“It is different when you are coming from a junior college,” Butler said. “Coming from a junior college, it is your second chance. Junior college players are hungrier to listen. Not trying to take anything away from anyone else. As far as the Players that are here from last year, mixed with the new Juco guys, everybody wants to win. Everybody is buying in because they have the same goal.”
What is that goal? Being the first men’s basketball team in school history to win the Mountain West, and then getting to the NCAA Tournament. Individual achievements are not on the minds of this group.
“There is no other goal,” Butler said. “That is the goal, win the Mountain West and get to the tournament, period.”
The Colorado State men’s basketball team opens the season with an exhibition game against Regis at Moby Arena on Nov. 8.
Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @JustinTMichael.