Sitting next to Sirena Tuitele, Colorado women's basketball coach JR Payne couldn't help but smile when she heard the freshman talk about her own game.

"I'm willing to do whatever it takes to take the team to the next level and for us to succeed and to grow as a program," Tuitele said. "I play a four or five, but wherever they see me fit, I'll do whatever it takes."

While Tuitele posted 15.1 points and 9.0 rebounds per game as a senior at Pleasant Valley (Calif.) High School, helping the Vikings reach the state title game, it may have been the intangibles that mostly attracted Payne the Buffs to the 6-foot-1 forward they call "Peanut."

"Part of the reason that we love Peanut so much is because of the way she answered that question: I'll do whatever it takes," Payne said. "She's extremely selfless, she's very team oriented. Peanut was raised to just work as hard as you can, as long as you can, and be a part of something. By having that mindset, she's become a star, which is pretty cool."

A two-time All-Northern Section MVP and three-time all-state performer during her high school career, Tuitele is part of an intriguing freshman class that hopes to take the Buffs (15-16 last year) to the next level.

"I'm extremely excited, especially for our class that they've recruited," Tuitele said. "We're already tight.


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"Growing a program has been my dream ever since I was little. I wanted to be that team that grew a program for younger generations to come to that school."

Recruited by Utah, TCU and others, Tuitele was drawn to CU for the chance to do just that, but it was the family-oriented atmosphere that really led her Boulder.

"I'm Polynesian and we're super family-oriented," she said. "That's what my parents and I were looking for was a family-oriented program.

"I mainly chose (CU) because of the connection I made with the coaches and players so quickly. I felt like I was already a part of the Buffalo family."

It may not take long for Buffs fans to embrace Tuitele, who also excelled in volleyball and comes from a big, athletic family. She has five siblings, including older brother Syrus, who is projected to start at guard this season as a sophomore for the Fresno State football team.

Possessing the versatility to play everything from small forward to post, Tuitele gives the Buffs a frontcourt presence they need.

"She can shoot the 3 really well, but she'll be naturally one of our strongest players right off the jump," Payne said. "She's a mismatch nightmare on the court just because she is so strong and can stretch the defense."

Although Tuitele may not be the top scoring option — senior guards Kennedy Leonard and Alexis Robinson are likely to provide the most scoring punch — she's hardly concerned. She'll get her points, but it's the other aspects of the game that concern her most.

"I love rebounding," she said. "As long as you get the ball for the team, that's all we need. Rebounding is key.

"I do care about scoring, but I don't really focus on scoring. As long as I share the ball with my teammates and get the ball to my point guard and contribute, I think it's going to be successful."

With exceptional physical tools and a team-first mentality, Tuitele could be a key to CU next season, and she's eager to get started.

"I'm super excited," she said. "Ever since the day I committed I couldn't wait to step foot on this campus and I'm happy I'm finally here."

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33