Colorado State’s 2018-19 men’s basketball season hasn’t even officially tipped off, and they’re already shorthanded.

At the conclusion of the Rams’ exhibition 87-67 victory over the CSU-Pueblo Thunderwolves on Saturday, head coach Niko Medved made it official that senior forward Deion James will redshirt. That came as a huge surprise because James was likely to be Nico Carvacho’s main backup in terms of big men with height — which CSU lacks — and James talked about being excited for this season when we talked to him on Media Day, Oct. 10.

The Rams won’t just be without James, they have to wait for guard Hyron Edwards to become eligible in the second half of the season due to transfer rules, and now Kris Martin has been suspended, too.

“Kris will miss the first five games of the season,” Medved explained after his team’s exhibition win. “You know, I love Kris. Kris is a great kid. He’s worked his tail off. He’s a huge part of what we’re doing, but we have expectations within the program and those weren’t met. So, he’ll do that. But, Kris has kept a great attitude. He’ll keep working. He’ll miss the first five games and then he’ll be back after that.”

This Rams team is certainly deeper than we’ve seen in recent years, as freshman Kendle Moore proved in the exhibition game, playing a game-high 31 minutes and scoring a game-high 19 points. In fact, fellow freshman Adam Thistlewood was second in scoring with 16 points, and while we can’t put too much into an exhibition game, those freshmen could be key in terms of filling in for James and Martin in the immediate term.

Still, losing James and Martin for the first five games will put an additional strain on this team which is already trying to accomplish a lot in a short period of time. Medved was hired in March, put his staff in place, and they’ve quickly changed the culture of the team. On top of connecting with the players well, the coaches have had to implement actual basketball plays and plans as well.

Martin, who scored 13.2 points per game in 2016-17 with Oral Roberts, sat last year due to NCAA transfer rules. He looked great in the team’s intrasquad scrimmage on Oct. 13, hitting mid-range jumpers with ease and Martin utilized his speed to steal a pass and get out on a fast break, too. Given his 6’6″ frame, he has solid size and was going to be the backup 2-3 man at the very least, and could have even started possibly.

Now, he’ll miss games against Colorado Christian (Nov. 7, 7 p.m. MST), Arkansas Pine Bluff, Montana State, Louisiana, Toledo/Florida Gulf Coast and one more. Basically, the first regular season game and the Gulf Coast Showcase.

It’s extremely early, but the Rams showed their depth on Saturday afternoon, with four players scoring in double-digits, and that doesn’t include star Nico Carvacho, who posted 13 rebounds but only nine points. They’ll now need that depth to win some of these early-season games and get on a roll.

It’s also worth keeping an eye on how the team integrates Martin when he’s back from suspension, and then how they integrate Edwards, too. Those changes could disrupt the chemistry.

CSU tips off their regular season at 7 p.m. MST on Wednesday, Nov. 7 against Colorado Christian at Moby Arena.

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