Michelle Smith: The ultimate competitor, Colorado's Jaylyn Sherrod has a fearlessness to her game
Jaylyn Sherrod isn’t out to prove anything. The undersized point guard who was recruited by only one Power 5 school — Colorado — and who frequently matches up against bigger players, plays with the proverbial chip on her shoulder. But it’s one she placed there herself.
“I just recognize that my biggest strength is the intangibles,” said the Buffaloes’ 5-foot-7 junior point guard. ”I might not be the best shooter or the best passer, but I consistently bring energy and effort to the floor. And I pride myself on that. Mentally, I’m going out there and playing for my teammates, the select few who have believed in me at the end of the day.”
No one would doubt it at this moment. Colorado is the lone unbeaten team in the country at 13-0 heading into Friday night’s marquee matchup against No. 2 Stanford in Boulder. The Buffs opened their Pac-12 schedule last weekend with a sweep of the L.A. schools — their first 2-0 start in conference play since 2006-07 when they were in the Big 12 — and Sherrod’s play was a big reason why.
Sherrod put up a career-high 25 points Sunday against UCLA, to go with eight assists. She also collected eight assists on Friday against USC, on the way to her first Pac-12 Player of the Week award. She now ranks second in the NCAA with a 3.56 assist-to-turnover ratio.
“She is the ultimate competitor and she’s an underdog,” said Colorado coach JR Payne. “Will over skill is her mantra. She is the type of player where she will take her perceived weakness and work to get better.”
Sherrod had a chance last season to see the game from some new angles, even if they weren’t the ones she would have chosen. She played in just 12 games before missing the remainder of the year to have hip surgery. She sat next to Payne on the bench, watched her call plays and sat in on meetings to understand not just the how of the game on the floor, but the why.
“It was a hard process for me to be out, but it taught me a lot,” Sherrod said. “It really gave me a chance to build my IQ. I don’t have to look at coach anymore to know what she wants. I can read the offense and the opponents.”
Payne said she has seen Sherrod’s confidence build through the early part of this season, physically and mentally.
“She puts the work in,” Payne said. “She has a right to be confident.”
Sherrod is regarded as one of the league’s best perimeter defenders.
“I challenged her to be a better defender and last season, after just a half a season, she was on the conference's all-defensive team,” Payne said.
The Buffaloes are tied for the league lead in scoring defense at 52.1 points a game. Sherrod said that defense is a mentality that she and her teammates embrace. They will need that mentality against the second-ranked Cardinal and its many offensive weapons.
“Our offensive opportunities come off of turnovers, deflections or steals,” Sherrod said. “We want to be one of the strongest teams and one of the toughest teams. And we have been working toward that.”
Meanwhile, that chip will stay right there where she can see it.
“On paper, I might not match up with a bigger player, but I don’t back down from anyone, and that’s the way I have always carried myself,” Sherrod said. “There’s a fearlessness to my game, because I just don’t have much room for error. And that’s just who I am.”