Buffs Excited to Officially Get Going
BOULDER – Sophomore point guard Jaylyn Sherrod officially opened her second season at the University of Colorado on Wednesday. Sherrod's excitement could be seen through her mask, sporting a wide smile and a new number on her back when she and her teammates hit the floor for the first time as an entire unit.
Sherrod, a Pac-12 All-Freshman selection, led the Buffs with 5.1 assists per game and was second on the squad with 9.9 points per game in her first year. This offseason she switched her number to double zero and did a mental makeover in preparation for year two.
"It's been a long time since we've been out here," Sherrod expressed. "It's been a long time since we've all been together. [Its great] vibes with having everybody back and having that overall team feeling."
CU's last competitive taste of basketball came back in early March at the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas. The Buffs were on the verge of a postseason berth before tournament cancelations happened across the board. As things start back up it is certainly a different atmosphere than previous years, with masks and social distancing protocols in place across the Colorado campus.
But basketball is still going to be basketball.
"It's been such an up and down few months with everything," 'junior Aubrey Knight commented. "Just to be able to practice makes it feel like there is some normalcy in our lives.
Although Wednesday was the official start of the season, it's not the first time the team has hit the court. The Buffs have been working out since the start of the semester, getting split into functional groups due to COVID protocols. The groups were not allowed to interact in the court, making Wednesday's practice the first time some student-athletes got to work and interact with some new faces.
"We are probably more ready [on day one] than we have ever been," Head coach JR Payne explained. "It's a weird thing to say because we missed the entire spring and a large portion of the summer. We only had about half our team here over the summer. We are still a young ballclub. The players that returned from last year played a lot of minutes, so we feel very ready."
Colorado along with the rest of the nation got the go-ahead to start play on Nov. 25. No schedule has been announced yet, but that's not going to minimize any of the preparation leading up to the first game.
"I think we have a really good team," Knight added. "We have a lot of really good girls on this team. I think we all get along really well so [our focus] is going to be just developing that chemistry on the court."
The 2020-21 edition of the Buffs will look similar, but different. The Buffs return seven different players who cracked the starting lineup last season. Senior Mya Hollingshed leads the group with 56 career starts. Knight, a junior in eligibility, enters her fourth year in the program. Annika Jank, Peanut Tuitele and Lesila Finau solidify the upperclassmen. Georgetown transfer Tayanna Jones will have to sit out this season due to DI transfer rules.
Sherrod and sophomore Charlotte Whittaker both shined last season. Whittaker, like Sherrod, will look build off a solid start to her career, averaging 5.9 points and 3.0 rebounds in her 27 games last season. Zuzanna Kulinska and Raanee Smith add as returns, gaining valuable experience last season off the bench. Redshirt freshman Maura Singer will look to acclimate to the college game after sitting out last season, recovering from knee surgery.
Coach Payne and her staff will also turn to six newcomers this season. Along with Jones, Payne added juco transfer, Madison Buford, from Rend Lake CC. She started all 33 games as a freshman for the Warriors and lead the team with 21.1 points per game.
Freshmen Sophie Gerber, Allysa Lafontaine, Kylee Blacksten and Frida Formann complete the roster.
"I think we are all fired up to have that chance [at a postseason tournament] this year," Knight noted. "I think we have a great team and an opportunity to win the Pac-12 and we all know that."