Colorado College is contending for a league title in men's basketball and Ryan Milne is a major reason.
The 5-foot-9 senior point guard paces the Tigers (13-5, 6-3 Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference) with averages of 19.2 points, 4.7 assists, 1.8 steals and perhaps most importantly, 37.6 minutes.
"Without his organization, we struggle," coach Andy Partee said. "Even when he is not hitting (his shot), the other things he does for us are critical. He makes the other players better."
After four years together, Partee trusts Milne to make the right decisions.
"He is an extension of me on the floor," Partee said. "We have a lot of one-on-ones where I ask him what he sees because he is in the battle."
After three years as captain, Milne has evolved into the team's leader.
"He challenges his teammates," Partee said. "I am pretty patient with players before I challenge them, but he will get on his teammates quite a bit. But he can also reach them in a different way. That helps him mentor. He has done well doing that. Everyone is attentive when he talks."
"It didn't come naturally," Milne said. "I had to mature quite a bit."
That leadership will be tested when the Tigers host Schreiner (10-10, 6-3) at 6 p.m. Friday. The Tigers and Mountaineers are tied for second in the Division III conference. Schreiner beat CC earlier this season. The Tigers conclude their homestand against last-place Texas Lutheran on Sunday.
The Tigers are motivated by last season's runner-up finish to first-place Trinity (13-7, 8-1). They were picked to finish first and second in the league preseason poll.
"Trinity's definitely loaded," Partee said. "For us, it's championship or bust, especially for the seniors."
The Tigers opened 5-0 before a road loss at Division I Northern Colorado. That start included two nonconference wins over D-III regional power Whitworth. It illustrates the program's progress since it endured a winless 2007-08 season.
"That says a lot about how we have progressed and are getting noticed nationally," Milne said, referring to the team's earlier Top 25 ranking.
It is a program standard Milne hopes to add to before he is finished.
"From freshman to senior, everyone is focused on winning the championship," he said. "We have to approach each game like we are in the playoffs."