Last season, Kennedy Leonard let her game do the talking. It worked, as a standout freshman season spoke volumes of the potential Leonard has as the floor general for the University of Colorado women's basketball team.
No longer a bright-eyed rookie, Leonard is one of the key components of the rebuilding project being undertaken by new head coach JR Payne. As the Buffaloes' point guard, Leonard hopes this season her voice provides her team with as much leadership as her statistics.
"I'm trying to lead the team probably a little more," Leonard said. "As a freshman, you're there but you're not that main voice. As a point guard, I just want to lead everyone basketball-wise. I want to be able to man the offense and calm everyone down when things get a little riled up. Be that soothing, calm voice in the eye of the storm.
"I'm not the person who's going to be yelling all the time. But knowing that the point guard is kind of the mom of the team who sees everything, it's kind of vital to be able to talk. So I've been working on my point guard voice."
Kennedy enjoyed a memorable freshman campaign in what otherwise was a forgettable 7-23 season for the Buffs, finishing as the club's second-leading scorer at 12.1 points per game. Kennedy also led CU in assists (4.6 per game) and steals (43) while connecting at a .309 rate (45-for-139) from 3-point range. Leonard was named to the Pac-12 Conference all-freshman team.
It wasn't a flawless CU debut though, with Kennedy also leading the team in turnovers while producing an uninspiring assists-to-turnover rate of 1.26. Kennedy spent much of the offseason honing her mid-range jumper while eyeing a reduced turnover rate.
"I think Kennedy has tremendous potential," Payne said. "On and off the court she's a really neat kid. She's fun to be around. She played a lot of minutes as a freshman at the point guard position, which is hard to do. In basketball terms we say she's just a hooper.
"She loves basketball. She's always in the gym. We've worked really hard on her mid-range game. A lot of her highlights and clips were getting to the basket or threes. Not a lot in between. I think that could be a big difference between last year and this year."
Leonard spent a significant portion of the summer competing with Great Britain's U-20 national team at the European Championships in Montenegro, an opportunity afforded by her mother's Scottish citizenry. Leonard fared well in her first international experience, leading the team with 12.7 points per game and 3.5 assists per game. Experiencing a different level of competition has Leonard eager for her sophomore season with the Buffs.
"Everybody doesn't get to play over the summer, so it was great to play those games," Leonard said. "I was able to work on some of the things (CU's coaches) wanted before I left. That was a big part of it. But I also was able to connect with people I wouldn't have connected with here, trying to put myself in their shoes and appreciate all that I'm blessed here at CU."