Forgive Carlon Brown if he has more on his mind Saturday than playing on his old home court - Utah's Huntsman Center - for the first time in a couple of years.
"I want to make a shot . . . that's what I want to do," Brown said with a chuckle the other day after he and the Colorado men's basketball team had wrapped up practice at the Coors Events Center.
At various times on that afternoon and the previous day, Brown had been quizzed by the media about his return to Utah, where he played for three seasons before transferring to CU year before last. Will it be emotional, testy, ho-hum, none of the above, all of the above?
When it was my turn to quiz him on the subject, this was his answer, preceded by a roll of the eyes and another chuckle:
"For the 1,162nd time, no . . . this game has no individual personal meaning. I'm not the type to hold grudges. I just want to go out there and do what's best for this Colorado Buffaloes team - and that's to win another game on the road and put ourselves in a position to stay among the top in the conference and hopefully be competing for a championship in March."
That's the PC answer, but it's also the right one. Brown is a no-bull senior from Riverside, Calif., truly is a team-first guy who also happens to be the Buffs' leading scorer who also happens to be wading through what he calls "some kind of mini-slump."
The numbers that put Brown's overall scoring average at 12.6 were not posted recently. In CU's last five games he's averaged 9.4 points, shooting just 33.9 percent from the field (19-of-56) and 16.0 percent (4-of-25) from beyond the three-point arc. Since Christmas, he's been CU's leading scorer (or tied for tops) in five games . . . then came those last five.
Brown has done what shooters do when their shots don't fall as frequently - they make more time for shooting practice and try to keep their confidence up. He shot extra on last week's road trek to Arizona/Arizona State and he's done it this week in the run-up to his return to Utah.
"I want to get back to shooting the way I was at the beginning of the season and toward the middle - the end of December, beginning of January," he said. "I've just been in some kind of mini-slump that I've been trying to work out of . . . I've got to just keep being confident and get to the rack more, getting to the free throw line and making layups. And I want to cut back on my turnovers; I know I'm not a point guard, but I can do a better job in that area."
Brown's coach, Tad Boyle, has said more than once that the Buffs can be a fairly dynamic offensive team when his top players can keep it going on a consistent basis. Boyle doesn't lose confidence in any of his guys when they encounter rough patches, and he hasn't lost any in Brown.
"The one thing he's done well through all of this is he's not forcing things," Boyle said. "He's still letting the game come to him . . . his shots are just not falling like they were. But he'll come out of it."
Both hope it's sooner rather than later, and mostly for Brown's sake, Boyle would like to see that happen on Saturday. "It would be (great), and we'd all like that - Carlon included," Boyle said. "We're approaching it like any other game, but if that could happen, yeah, it would be great."
Brown led the Utes in scoring in the 2009-10 season, averaging 12.6 points. He was Utah's leading scorer in 11 games and reached double figures 21 times that season, topped by a 31-point output against Wyoming. Brown undoubtedly was contributing, but he (and others) didn't like the direction of the program under former coach Jim Boylen, who was fired on March 12, 2011. Boylen had replaced Ray Giacoletti, who was shown the door four years earlier.
No coaches and only two players who were on the Utes roster with Brown remain on this season's squad. First-year coach Larry Krystkowiak is trying to revive a program that at one time appeared to have a lifetime membership in the NCAA Tournament.
But the Salt Lake City scene has changed dramatically and almost totally, and as Brown says now, "At the end of the day Utah doesn't care about me and what I do and I don't really care about what Utah does. Inside this 94 feet (court) and for those 40 minutes we're just going to see who's the better team that day. And hopefully we come out on top so we can remain at the top of this league race.
"They've got bigger things to worry about (than Carlon Brown). Now, if the old coaching staff was there, who knows? But I know for this coaching staff, they've got way bigger problems than one number 30 wearing black."
CU celebrated New Year's Eve and its debut in the Pac-12 Conference by hammering Utah 73-33 - a 40-point facial that Boyle is certain has been viewed and reviewed by Krystkowiak and his staff before being shown and re-shown to their players.
"All the motivation is to their advantage . . . they'll use that game," Boyle said. "I'm sure they're showing that game to their guys, appealing to their pride. We have to be ready."
Utah is 5-20 overall, 2-11 in the conference. Given that CU won in a walk in Boulder, one might think the same could be done in SLC. But Boyle is cautioning his players about not falling into that trap and maintaining focus on their Pac-12 standing (9-4 and in a three-way tie for second) and what can be accomplished.
"We don't have to talk about that; they understand," he said. "We've talked for a couple of weeks about being in a league race. We're still there, but the only way you stay there is by taking care of business, winning some on the road and getting on a little bit of a roll here."
Plus, he added, Utah's dismal record doesn't reflect the Utes' demeanor: "They're playing with lot of heart and desire . . . they've been in lot of games, but they can't seem to get over the hump - a five-point game here, a one-point game there. But they're battling.
"They've got a first-year staff and they're not playing any seniors. They're in the mode of trying to improve day-to-day, week-to-week. When you play a team in that kind of mode, you'd better be ready. They're still scratching and clawing; sometimes you look at a team like Utah with the record they have and they've packed it in. But that's not the case here and our guys need to understand that."
Boyle believes Brown understands how to handle his return to SLC, calling him "a mature player and young man. He obviously wants to play well there. He's got three years of his life invested over there. I know it's important for him to play well. Some players I'd really worry about, but Carlon's not one of them."