CU women's basketball preview: Washington
MATCHUP: Washington Huskies (7-18, 1-13 Pac-12) at Colorado Buffaloes (12-13, 3-11 Pac-12)
GAME TIME: Friday, 7 p.m. MT, at Coors Events Center in Boulder
BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Plus. Radio - KHOW 630 AM
COACHES: Colorado — JR Payne, 2nd season (29-29 at CU; 130-142 career). Washington — Jody Wynn, 1st season (7-18; 144-137 career).
LEADERS: Colorado — Scoring: G Kennedy Leonard, Jr., 15.0 ppg; Rebounding: F Annika Jank, Fr., 7.2 rpg; Assists: Leonard, Jr., 6.6 apg. Washington — Scoring: G Amber Melgoza, So., 17.4 ppg; Rebounding: F Hannah Johnson, Jr., 5.6 rpg; Assists: G Jenna Moser, Sr., 2.6 apg.
NOTABLE: CU has lost three in a row and nine of 10, but played well in its Bay Area trip last weekend. The Buffs last three losses have come by a combined 15 points. ... Washington has lost six in a row. ... The Buffs won the previous meeting with the Huskies, 66-61 in Seattle on Jan. 7. Alexis Robinson had 22 points for CU. ... Leonard needs 18 points to pass Sandy Bean (1978-82) for 16th on CU's career scoring list. She comes in with 1,300 points. ... Leonard also needs just seven assists to become the third player in program history with 500. ... The Buffs will play both games this weekend without center Jaimie Curtis (concussion) and forward Janea Bunn, who has missed the last five games, and seven of the last eight, for personal reasons.
When she's introduced on senior day at Coors Events Center on Sunday. Colorado's Brecca Thomas isn't expecting tears.
"I'm not really an emotional person, so I'm just hoping I don't cry on senior day," she said. "I guess this will definitely be the test."
If she does, it'll be understandable, given that her time at CU has transformed her from a quiet teenager far from her Houston home to a young adult ready to tackle life's next challenge.
"It feels like time has flown by so fast," she said this week. "It's bittersweet, as always. You never want to leave your teammates and all the memories, but then also at the same time you're growing up and you're 'adulting.' That's what they call it, right?"
One of two seniors on the CU women's basketball team — along with center Zoe Correal — Thomas is closing her career on a high note personally. While the Buffs (12-13, 3-11 Pac-12) aren't having a great season, Thomas is enjoying her best year.
Providing a spark off the bench, the 5-foot-5 Thomas is averaging a career-best 5.8 points per game and she already has a career-high 17 steals.
"I think everything about Brecca this season has been fantastic," head coach JR Payne said. "Her attitude has been great, her demeanor has been great. She's leading; she's been more vocal; she's encouraging; she's positive; she's working hard. She comes in (to games) with confidence and she's knocked down big shots. She's done everything you could want her to do at a pretty consistent rate."
The Buffs are hoping that continues as they head into the final home weekend of the weekend, Friday against Washington and Sunday against Washington State.
For Thomas, this has been a resurgent season on the court after a bumpy middle of her career.
Following Thomas' sophomore season, the coach that brought her to Boulder, Linda Lappe, was fired. Payne arrived last year, but couldn't find much playing time for Thomas, who saw just 6.7 minutes per game — down from 19.5 the previous season.
"I owe a lot to how I was brought up: you don't quit, you don't give up, you don't lose faith and you don't lose confidence," Thomas said. "You push and power through, because it's who I am."
Thomas also credits her classmate, Correal, as the two stuck by each other throughout the years.
"We've been through basketball adversity and everything on and off the court," Thomas said.
Thomas pushed through to become an extremely value component to this year's team, which is young and inexperienced. In addition to having some of her best statistical games of her career this year, Thomas "just exudes calm," Payne said.
That calm, and Thomas' growth as a player, is really a byproduct of her growth as a young woman. She laughs now at the thought of the quiet freshman she was in the fall of 2014.
"Initially, I wasn't outgoing and willing to just talk to my teammates, but they brought that out in me my freshman year and they put an end to that real quick," she said. "I think anyone that knew me freshman year and they know me now they can definitely say I talk more than I ever have."
More so than her play on the court, Thomas' personal development is what defines her time at CU.
"(College) grows you as a person more so than anything," she said. "You become more perspective driven.
"A switch flipped. Maybe it was this year, maybe it was last year, but I can definitely say I've come a long way. Experiencing a lot and going through the journey and adventure of being a student athlete and everything it's come with, it's grown me into a person that I'm very grateful and thankful and blessed to be."
Thomas said coming from Houston to Boulder was "culture shock" in 2014, but the city and CU have shaped her.
"This university has definitely shown me a lot about just life in general and what life has to offer and what life is about," she said. "It's about experiencing new things, new people and new journeys and not being fearful of it."
A new journey awaits Thomas in the coming months. She will graduate in May and then isn't sure what life will bring — graduate school and something involving basketball are possibilities — but, she will leave CU and the women's basketball program knowing she's prepared for what life has to offer.
"You grow through what you go through and I'm definitely thankful for that," she said. "All my four years (at CU) have been fun, to be honest. Regardless of the circumstances you're put in and everything I've gone through, you find a way. You find something. You find an outlet. I found a way to be happy and fun and enjoy myself in this time."
If tears happen to flow on Sunday, it'll be because of that happiness, and the people who helped her find it.
"I'm just forever blessed and grateful for the experience to be a part of such amazing young women, the teammates I have and everyone I've gotten to work with on the court and off the court," she said.