The Colorado women's basketball team spent much of last season getting its roster used to the Division I level.

Eight of the 13 players were new to CU (15-16, 5-13 Pac-12) and the growing pains were evident.

There will be new players next year, as well, but it's the improvement of the nine returners that could have the most impact.

It starts with senior point guard Kennedy Leonard. A three-year starter who already ranks second in CU history in assists (529) and 14th in points (1,383), the Buffs would like to see her improve as a leader.

"She's accomplished a lot already," head coach JR Payne said. "Getting everyone else to train and compete at the level it takes to be successful is Ken and our biggest challenge."

The Buffs would also like to see Leonard improve her shooting — she hit 39.8 percent of her shots and just 27.6 percent from 3-point range last season — and cut down on her 3.65 turnovers per game.

It's not just Leonard that has to improve, however. The Buffs are about seven weeks into offseason workouts, and here's a look at the improvement coaches would like to see before next season:

G Alexis Robinson, Sr.: She averaged 12.1 points per game, but was very inconsistent. For example, after a career-high 31 points at No. 10 UCLA, she scored just 17 points in the next three games combined. "We're really trying to challenge her in just being consistent and having that scorer's mindset, because she can do it," Payne said. Robinson relies a lot on the 3, but coaches would like her to use her quickness to get to the hoop, as well as develop a mid-range jumper. On the plus side, Robinson has already bulked up this offseason. The trick is getting her to maintain that weight and strength during the season.


G Quinessa Caylao-Do, Jr.: She got off to a great start last year before a hand injury derailed her. It took her most of the season to regain her early-season success. If healthy, Caylao-Do could be a huge factor next year. "She's the best defender on our team and then she's our most aggressive offensive player," Payne said. Coaches love Caylao-Do's willingness to do whatever is needed. Improving her finishing at the rim is vital.

G Mathilde Diop, Jr.: A junior college transfer last fall, the Senegal native spent much of this past season dealing with a host of life adjustments. That and some injuries limited her to 22 games and 8.9 minutes per game. This offseason, the Buffs want her to work on her ball handling and shooting, but the main task is putting muscle on her lean, 6-foot-2 frame. "She's doing well and trying to get bigger," Payne said. "She can get stronger."

G Sara Castro, So.: Coming from Spain, Castro had to make a big jump to D-I basketball and spent much of her year learning. She showed some scoring punch, and will be looking to improve her shot this offseason. "Also getting strong and trying to lean out," Payne said of the focus for Castro.

G Peyton Carter, So.: The potential is there to be a nice complement to Leonard as a backup point guard, but her inexperience kept her on the bench at times. Carter is off to a great start to the offseason. "I think she has shed that freshman mindset," Payne said. "She's working really hard. She's getting bigger and stronger and wants to lean out; and she's getting up tons and tons of shots." Working out with Leonard this offseason should help Carter develop her game.

G/F Mya Hollingshed, So.: She may have the most upside on the roster. Hollingshed came on late in the year and finished with 6.8 points and 3.9 boards per game. She loves the outside shot, but the Buffs want her to develop more of an inside game. Coaches also want her to consistently use her exceptional athleticism. "Mya is having a great spring," Payne said. "Hers would be one of the loudest voices you would hear (in a workout). She's very much flipped a switch."

F Annika Jank, So.: The Buffs' top freshman this past year, she started 29 of 31 games and averaged 9.1 points and 6.9 rebounds. She struggled in Pac-12 play, but Payne isn't worried about her. Like Hollingshed, Jank loves the jump shot, but the Buffs want her to use her inside ability more. "They need to develop some inside game and they're working hard on it," Payne said. "Actually developing some skill on the block is very new to them and it's a big focus of (assistant coach Toriano Towns) with them this spring."

G Aubrey Knight, So.: A starter early in the season, Knight was more of a role player down the stretch. She had surgery on a torn labrum after the season and will be out until late summer. When she's healthy, coaches compare her to former Buff standout Haley Smith - a long, athletic player with the willingness to do whatever coaches ask to help the team. "She's doing great (with rehab) and her attitude, she's such a great kid," Payne said.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at or