Nearly 40 percent of the Colorado women's basketball team's roster is new to the squad this season.

Yet, as the Buffaloes go through the early stages of preseason practices, they've already developed the bond of a veteran group.

"I love everybody on the team and I think of my four years here ... this is the most together team I've been a part of," senior point guard Kennedy Leonard said.

Ten days in Italy together accelerated the Buffs' team bond. In August, the Buffs went overseas for a three-game exhibition and some sightseeing.

"I think it helped tremendously," head coach JR Payne said. "The time and experiences that they went through together ... that experience together is invaluable."

Colorado’s Kennedy Leonard is one of the leaders of the women’s team along with senior Alexis Robinson and junior Quinessa Caylao-Do.
Colorado's Kennedy Leonard is one of the leaders of the women's team along with senior Alexis Robinson and junior Quinessa Caylao-Do. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)

Payne enters her third season in Boulder with a 32-32 record, including 15-16 last season.

Despite coming off a losing record, the Buffs enter practices this season optimistic because how their veterans and newcomers have meshed.

This is a team led by Leonard, fellow senior Alexis Robinson and junior Quinessa Caylao-Do, while also featuring five freshmen who could all get into the mix for playing time.

"It's the first week of practice and you're going to have ups and downs, but I think overall, our trajectory is going to be up because of the youth and the energy that they bring," Leonard said.

Leonard said the trip to Italy has helped the eight returning players get to know each other better, but also to get to know the newcomers.


Advertisement

"You travel 12 hours on a plane and then you're traveling with people everywhere you go," Leonard said. "To have that two months before we actually start playing I think helps a ton. I think it builds a bond off the court that can be translated on to the court."

The Buffs certainly hope that's the case, and Payne said one of the points of emphasis in preseason practice will be to continue the momentum they gained in the offseason.

"We're really trying to build off what we accomplished this summer," Payne said.

A strong offseason has helped the Buffs start strong in preseason. Payne said the Buffs are "light years" ahead of where they usually are a week into practice.

"We're in a place now where sort of the way we want to play (is established), as far as playing really hard, our practices are shorter, harder and everything is cleaner," she said. "We're working for a crisp, clean aggressive style of basketball.

"We're getting there."

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