The CSU menâ€™s basketball team holds a 14-7 record, has upset a top-15 team and is firmly in the conversation for an NCAA Tournament berth.
Despite the overall success, there are clear signs that the Rams arenâ€™t quite part of the upper-echelon of the Mountain West.
Blowout losses on the road to Wyoming, New Mexico and UNLV show that CSU still needs a couple of pieces to reach the top.
And CSU may just have the final pieces of the puzzle already on the roster, just waiting to take the court.
Transfers Daniel Bejarano and Colton Iverson came to the Rams last summer and are currently sitting out the year due to NCAA transfer regulations.
The 6-10 Iverson, who has one year of eligibility remaining after transferring from Minnesota, will immediately fill the gaping hole in the paint for a CSU team that currently doesnâ€™t have anyone over 6-6 getting consistent playing time.
At Minnesota, Iverson started 42 games in his career, scoring more than 500 points. For now, he has to be content running scout team and cheering his team on during games.
â€œGame days are the toughest. You work out with the team everyday; you practice, so you kind of feel like youâ€™re still part of it,â€ said Iverson, who said he transferred because he didnâ€™t like how some things were going at Minnesota and said that it was best for both parties to part.
â€œThen game day comes, and youâ€™re sitting on the bench. Those are the toughest days. Sometimes youâ€™re sitting at home like, â€˜should I have transferred?â€™ You think about it a little bit, because I feel like Iâ€™m not doing anything when Iâ€™m not on the court playing.â€
Sitting right next to Iverson on the bench is Bejarano, a 6-4 guard who is at CSU after leaving the University of Arizona. Bejarano transferred because of a lack of playing time after being a big recruit out of high school, where he was an all-Arizona pick in 2009 and 2010.
â€œWhen I committed, coming to college I didnâ€™t think I wasnâ€™t going to play at all. Itâ€™s hard,â€ Bejarano said. â€œBut at the same time, Iâ€™m trying to keep my focus and just work hard and make everyone else better.â€
Right now the sharp-shooter and big man have formed a bond through their shared situation, and they use their pent-up energy and frustration to give the starters the best possible look on scout team.
â€œWhen I was at North Dakota State, we had a world-class freshman group,â€ coach Tim Miles said. â€œWe were just going from Division II to Division I â€” we red-shirted five guys. They beat our butts every day in practice. So it reminds me of that. These guys really can present a lot of problems in practice. And they really make games oftentimes easier than what practices are.â€
In practice Iverson is able to dominate the paint and has shown a decent shooting range. Bejarano meanwhile, can put a claim in as possibly the most athletic player on the team. He has demonstrated an ability to hit shots from anywhere on the court.
â€œDo we wish we had them sometimes?â€ Miles said. â€œWell, its part of the game. I quit wishing to be good-looking a long time ago. Some things arenâ€™t happening.â€
Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Lytle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guard Daniel Bejarano
From: Phoenix, Ariz.
Previous school: University of Arizona
Years of eligibility remaining: 3
Center Colton Iverson
From: Yankton, S.D.
Previous school: University of Minnesota
Years of eligibility remaining: 1