In June, Quinessa Caylao-Do had the unique opportunity to take her first trip to New York.
The purpose was to accompany her boyfriend, Dejounte Murray, to the NBA draft. The 19-year-old Murray, who played his freshman season at Washington, wound up being the 29th pick in the draft, by the San Antonio Spurs.
"It was very motivational to me, because I would like to play in the WNBA," said Caylao-Do, a freshman for the Colorado women's basketball team. "It was pretty motivational seeing him be able to put a (Spurs) hat on and walk up on stage. It was really cool."
Caylao-Do (pronounced Kay-Low-Dough), a 5-foot-8 combo guard from Tacoma, Wash., has always managed to surround herself with people who will motivate her and push her to be better, and she believes that will pay off as she begins her collegiate career.
"I think if I work hard and practice and do everything that I'm supposed to in the role I'm supposed to do, I think I'll be able to play and make an impact on the team and be able to help win games," she said.
In addition to Murray, Caylao-Do's support system includes her best friend, Bria Rice, who was originally signed to play at CU, but is now at Arizona. Men's players Jalen McDaniels of San Diego State and Keith Smith of Oregon are also close friends.
"We actually work out together often," Caylao-Do said of that group. "We're always pushing each other during workouts."
Rice and Murray, in particular, also push her to succeed in the classroom.
"We can push each other every day and make each other better and make sure we're not slacking in the gym," she said of Murray. "He gets on me about my school work and basketball, so it's cool to have."
CU could use a motivated and determined freshman like Caylao-Do to provide a spark this season.
After a disappointing 7-23 season, the Buffs made a coaching change, parting ways with Linda Lappe and hiring JR Payne from Santa Clara. Payne revamped the entire coaching staff, as well.
CU is hoping the change sparks a turnaround on the court, and Caylao-Do could be a big part of that.
During the brief time CU was without a coach, Caylao-Do was unsure what she'd do, even though she was already signed to play for the Buffs. When Payne was hired, however, that brought a sense of relief.
"I was being recruited by Santa Clara before, so I knew (the new CU coaches) pretty well before I came," Caylao-Do said.
Having an established relationship with Payne helped Caylao-Do realize she could fit in to CU's new system, and Payne can't wait to see what the freshman does on the court.
"She definitely will play this year," Payne said. "She has the skill set to where she plays both sides of the ball and loves to play both sides. She likes to defend, and likes to score and be aggressive offensively."
So far, Caylao-Do has thrived in Boulder, despite being out of her comfort zone.
She arrived in early July, but was one of just three players on campus. In addition, Payne takes the unique approach of having her players live in the dorms with non-players, so Caylao-Do had to get acquainted with a roommate she had never met.
"(When players live together), it's very easy to not branch out and make friends outside of the team, which we think is really important just for your overall education to have a social group that's outside of your teammates," Payne said.
So far, so good. Payne said Caylao-Do comes into the office every day with a big smile. With friends and teammates pushing her to succeed, she's hoping to keep that smile for a while.
"It's really exciting," she said. "I've been waiting for this."
CU has two open scholarships, but Payne said the Buffs will save them for next year. ... Freshman forward Eleanor Jones will arrive at CU in a couple of weeks.
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.