CU women's basketball preview: Dartmouth
Matchup: Dartmouth Big Green (6-2) at Colorado Buffaloes (7-1)
Game time: Monday, 7 p.m., at Coors Events Center in Boulder
Broadcast: TV - Pac-12 Plus. Radio - KHOW 630 AM
Coaches: Colorado - JR Payne, 2nd season (24-17 at CU; 125-139 career). Dartmouth - Belle Koclanes, 5th season (45-76)
Leaders: Colorado - Scoring: G Kennedy Leonard, Jr., 16.3 ppg; Rebounding - F Annika Jank, Fr., 8.1 rpg; Assists - Leonard, Jr., 6.9 apg. Dartmouth - Scoring: G Cy Lippold, Jr., 14.6 ppg; Rebounds: G Kate Letkewicz, Sr., 7.5 rpg; Assists: Lippold, 4.4 apg.
Notable: The Buffs bring a six-game winning streak into this game. ... CU won the only previous meeting with the Big Green, 57-43, on Dec. 21, 2007, in Boulder. ... Mullen High School graduate Emily Dryden is a junior forward at Dartmouth. ... Coming into last weekend, CU ranked first in the Pac-12 and eighth nationally with 46.75 rebounds per game. ... Since Payne took over as coach, CU is 19-3 against non-Pac-12 teams. ... Leonard needs one more steal to become the 16th player in CU history with 150 for her career.
Like all Minnesotans, Annika Jank grew up learning to adapt to weather conditions that aren't always ideal.
"Last year it got to negative 50 degrees," she said.
That's frigid, even for those used to the cold. At a young age, however, Jank figured out how to spend her winters.
"I love going to the gym to shoot," Jank said.
The ultimate gym rat, Jank is quickly emerging as a star for the Colorado women's basketball team. A true freshman forward, Jank is leading the team in rebounding (8.1 per game), while ranking second in scoring (13.4) and blocks (1.5) for the Buffaloes, who take a 7-1 record into Monday's home date with Dartmouth (6-2).
"She loves the game of basketball," CU head coach J.R. Payne said. "She's always in the gym. She and (junior guard Kennedy Leonard) are the first two every day and the last two every day. If they have a day off, they are sneaking in to work out. She loves the game and she's worked really hard.
"You combine a kid that naturally plays hard with that type of work ethic, you're going to end up with a pretty good player. You add in she's a 6-foot-3, pretty mobile, athletic kid that can shoot the ball, now you have a star in the making."
Eight games into her career, it might be a bit early to declare Jank a star, but she's certainly displaying star qualities. She's already posted three doubles and at times is the best player on the floor.
In Wednesday's 70-67 win at Colorado State, Jank had a career-high 22 points to go along with 10 rebounds and was especially dominant in a first-quarter that put CU ahead by 11.
"Her effort never wanes," Payne said. "Her effort is so consistent that even when she makes a mistake or doesn't necessarily know exactly what she's supposed to do in a certain situation, she makes up for it with effort."
That effort stems from Jank's youth, when her father, Jonathan, got her started in basketball.
"I think I was in kindergarten; maybe I was 4 years old," she said. "I was pretty darn young and I've always loved it."
For much of her youth, Jank played simply for fun, but eventually she realized she was really good at the game.
At Edina High School, Jank became the school's all-time leader in points and rebounds. She earned all-state honors three times and all-conference honors four times.
She credits much of her success to her father.
"My dad has helped me out a lot through the game of basketball," she said. "I'm always in the gym shooting with him when I'm back at home and he always texts me after the game with tips."
Being in Boulder has helped Jank take her game to a new level, as she works with Leonard, her other teammates and coaches.
"I'm so blessed to be here and I don't regret it one bit," she said. "I just love the family atmosphere of our team and hanging out with our players. I love the coaches. They're always so personable and always wanting me to get better."
Although it is early in her career, Jank said she's a bit surprised by her success to this point.
"A little, but I've been working hard," she said. "My teammates have been helping me out, so that's been a great boost."
What has Payne and Jank most excited is that she hasn't peaked. Jank believes her ball handling and defense need to improve, and she also wants to work on "not freaking out when people are pressuring me," she said.
"Every day I hope to get a little better at each of those things, so at the end I'm firing on all cylinders," she said.
Having worked with Jank since the summer, Payne has no doubt there's more she can do in the future.
"She's going to have a fantastic career and she's off to a great start," Payne said. "She's the type of player you want in your program. She's going to be a great player for years to come."