It's no surprise freshman guard Kyleesha Weston is starting to feel more comfortable and confident on the court for the Colorado women's basketball team. Coach Linda Lappe predicted in the fall this would happen.
Weston is following the development arc Lappe laid out for her at the outset of the season. She hoped the Buffs would get into the meat of the Pac-12 Conference schedule in January and have a more confident freshman coming off the bench capable of giving her minutes at either guard position.
That seems to be the case.
Weston is coming off one of her best games so far in her brief CU career. She scored eight points with three rebounds and an assist in just 15 minutes against Utah on Sunday. She didn't have any turnovers.
"I think so, but I also think I have a lot to go," Weston said when asked if she feels she has improved a lot in her first season. "So as long as I keep progressing through practice and continue to listen to the coaches about what I need to change, then everything will be a lot better."
The Buffs welcome Arizona State to the Coors Events Center Friday night followed by Arizona on Sunday. It's vital for the 21st-ranked Buffs to earn two victories this weekend at home because the next four games all come on the road. The Buffs will play at Cal, Stanford, UCLA and USC before returning home Feb. 8 to host Oregon State. Eight of their final 12 games are on the road.
"Every game in the conference is important at this point in the season, but we understand what's to come in the next two weeks having four games on the road," Lappe said. "Regardless, we want to protect our home floor. We've got to get back to playing well when we're at home and understanding that we're in control of how we perform when we're at home."
It's been awhile since the CU women's program was in a position where it could bring a player of Weston's caliber along slowly. In the recent past, good recruits such as Weston, were forced to play big minutes early in their careers and take their lumps along the way because of a lack of quality depth on the bench.
Lappe has skillfully built her roster to allow for freshmen to contribute right away if they prove they can, but also to develop at a slower pace if that is what's needed. Weston said the game started to slow down for her just before Christmas and she definitely noticed it even against Stanford, a top-five team.
"She is doing a great job of just learning everything that she can learn," Lappe said. "She is talented. The sky is going to be the limit for her. For her to be able to start to do what she's doing is a huge help for us. She provides some depth at the guard position. She provides an athletic, strong point guard and wing that just gives us more depth. I've really been impressed with her and the way she has come to practice every day since she has come back from Christmas break."
Weston said she had a lot to learn when she arrived from Kansas City and began practicing in the fall, but not having the pressure to produce right away was a positive. She had grown accustomed to major playing time during a standout prep career at Park Hill High School and not playing took some getting used to at first, but she sees now that it helped her.
"Doing that, I really got to see what I needed to do and what I needed to change to be on the floor," Weston said. "So after changing that and knowing that I'm not going to play as many minutes as I have before is really fine with me because I know it's for the better for the team. So me just getting in there as much as I can and doing as many positive things as I can is all that I go for in the games."
Lappe said she has used Weston much more as a shooting guard to this point but she is seeing her develop better habits and a solid attitude and believes it is showing through on the court. Lappe said Weston is beginning to earn more opportunities to play point guard as the season goes along, though the team still largely depends on Chucky Jeffery and Brittany Wilson to handle the ball.
"We have the luxury of not having to throw her in at the point because we have older players that can play it," Lappe said. "She continues to get better at it, but it has been a huge benefit for her not to have to be thrown into the fire maybe like Brittany was thrown into the fire her freshman year."
Arizona State redshirt freshman Eliza Normen will play in front of a large contingent of family and friends. Normen became a high school All-American at Monarch High School in Louisville in 2011 despite having her senior season cut short by injury. Normen redshirted last season as a true freshman because of a quad injury.
CU will celebrate National Girls & Women In Sports Day on Feb. 24 before the CU women's game against Washington. All kids in the eighth grade and under are invited to attend the game for free.
Prior to the game attendees will participate in skill and fitness stations run by CU female student-athletes in the volleyball and basketball practice facility attached to the Coors Events Center. The first 500 kids to complete the stations will receive a free T-shirt.
To receive free admission, kids and accompanying adults must enter the Events Center between noon and 12:45 p.m.
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CU women's hoops preview
FRIDAY: The No. 21 Colorado Buffaloes (13-2, 2-2 Pac-12) host the Arizona State Sun Devils (10-6, 2-2) in a 7 p.m. game at Coors Events Center in Boulder.
BROADCAST: Radio -- KKZN (760 AM), with Mike Rice on play-by-play and Carol Callan providing color commentary. Internet -- Pac-12.com.
STORYLINES: CU returns home after completing a sweep of Utah, on Jan. 8 in Boulder and on Sunday in Salt Lake City. ... ASU defeated Oregon and Oregon State last weekend. ... In addition to its No. 21 Associated Press ranking, the Buffs are No. 25 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll. ... CU ranks 11th nationally in rebounding margin, at plus-10.5. ... The Buffs are 5-1 in games decided by 10 points or less this season. ... ASU has lost its only two Pac-12 road games so far, at Washington and at Washington State. CU is 1-2 in Pac-12 home games, losing to No. 6 Stanford and No. 7 Cal. ... The Buffs have the No. 2 scoring defense in the Pac-12, allowing just 54.1 points per game. ASU is fifth, at 57.9. ... ASU is 11th in the Pac-12 in turnovers, at 19.3 per game. ... Both teams have been nearly identical in shooting percentages. CU has hit 42.7 percent of its field, while ASU is at 42.6. CU has hit 68.0 percent of its free throws, while ASU is at 67.7 percent.
KEY STAT: While the Buffs rank high nationally in rebounding margin, most of that work was done in non-conference play. ASU has been much better on the boards in Pac-12 play so far, with a plus-6.8 margin. CU is plus-0.3 in Pac-12 games.
COACHES: Linda Lappe is 52-32 in her third season at CU and 102-68 overall. Charli Turner Thorne is 299-185 in her 16th year at ASU and 339-225 for her career.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Colorado -- G Chucky Jeffery, 5-10, Sr. (13.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 4.3 apg, 2.4 spg); G Brittany Wilson, 5-7, Jr. (8.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.3 apg); G Lexy Kresl, 5-11, So. (5.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg); F Arielle Roberson, 6-1, Fr. (14.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg); C Rachel Hargis, 6-4, Jr. (5.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg). Arizona State -- G Adrianne Thomas, 5-9, Jr. (5.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 3.1 apg); G Micaela Pickens, 5-8, Sr. (7.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.3 apg); G Promise Amukamara, 5-8, So. (7.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.9 spg); F Janae Fulcher, 6-3, Sr. (12.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg); C Joy Burke, 6-5, Jr. (7.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg).
SERIES: CU leads the overall series 9-2, but ASU won both meetings last season.
UP NEXT: CU will host Arizona on Sunday at 2 p.m.