During her first season as the head coach of the Colorado women's basketball team, JR Payne led the Buffaloes to a winning record and a trip to the Women's NIT.
Considering she took over a team that won seven games the year before, going 17-16 was a success.
Throughout the season, however, Payne was disappointed that the Buffs weren't stronger on the glass. The Buffs were out-rebounded by an average of 1.9 boards per game, ranking 10th in the Pac-12. In conference games, they were out-rebounded by 6.3 per game, ranking 11th.
"Something we've always prided ourselves in is out-rebounding our opponents," Payne said. "We will really aim to improve there."
CU's best rebounder from a year ago, Haley Smith (6.4 per game) has graduated, but Payne believes the Buffs have added several good rebounders this offseason.
Junior Janea Bunn, a 6-foot-3 forward from Midland (Tex.) College, is "our best rebounder right now," Payne said.
"She is really strong and physical. She has long arms and a great wingspan," Payne added.
The Buffs are also hoping for more out of senior center Zoe Correal, who averaged 4.2 boards per game last year, and expect Jaimie Curtis, a 6-foot-7 transfer from Sierra (Calif.) College, to contribute.
In addition, Annika Jank is a 6-foot-3 freshman who became the all-time leading rebounder in Edina (Minn.) High School history, and athletic 6-foot-3 freshman wing Mya Hollingshed. Payne added that 6-foot-1 freshman Aubrey Knight can be a great asset on the offensive glass.
With more height and length than they had a year ago, the Buffs are hoping that makes a big difference in their rebounding efforts.
The Buffs spent their first offseason with new strength and conditioning coach Adam Ringler, and Payne was pleased with the work done by Ringler and the players.
"During the recruiting process for that position, we spoke with different people that he had worked with," Payne said. "Every single person that has worked with him loves him. That type of recommendation over that span of years is excellent.
"For us, strength is a really big component of our program. We like to be tough, we like to be physical. A big part of that comes from the weight room. He's been fantastic. Our players have gotten leaner, stronger, their numbers are going up."
Notably, point guard Kennedy Leonard increased her strength and guard Alexis Robinson gained about 10 pounds of muscle in her upper body and "looks great," Payne said.
Returning to action
Just this week, the Buffs had two players return to practice after dealing with injuries, including Correal, who has been dealing with knee pain all offseason.
"She's just now coming back," Payne said. "She hadn't practiced with us until a few days ago. The minute she came into practice, it felt better. It was louder and just that experience of communicating and talking and encouraging, that changed the energy of practice the minute Correal came in. It was awesome."
Junior college transfer Mathilde Diop, a 6-foot-2 wing, was cleared this week.
"She's athletic and long," Payne said. "She can shoot the ball. She's a really versatile player."
In all, the Buffs have 13 players, eight of which are new to the program. Payne said she expects every player on the roster to contribute this season. ... The Buffs will host Colorado Christian in an exhibition on Nov. 4 at 2 p.m. at Coors Events Center. The season opener will be Nov. 10 at Samford. The home opener is Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. against Florida Atlantic.