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CU women’s basketball: Jamee Swan the backbone of youthful Buffs

Colorado senior Jamee Swan, center, smiles for a photo with Utah's Danielle Rodriguez, left, and Oregon's Jillian Alleyne.
Jeff Chiu / Associated Press
Colorado senior Jamee Swan, center, smiles for a photo with Utah’s Danielle Rodriguez, left, and Oregon’s Jillian Alleyne.

SAN FRANCISCO — Jamee Swan might list Marana, Ariz., as her hometown. Yet her Colorado ties run far deeper than her role as the lone senior on the University of Colorado women’s basketball team this season.

Her mother, Diane, is a Denver-area native who starred at Arvada West and later became Swan’s high school coach. Swan holds fond memories of traveling to Colorado to visit her grandparents every summer, to the point where the Centennial State became, in Swan’s words, “my home away from home.”

So when Swan says it’s a special feeling to gear up for her final run with the Buffaloes, it certainly isn’t a cliché of a proclamation.

With the 2015-16 season opener now just one month away, Swan is in a unique position. Though she is the Buffs’ unquestioned leader on and off the court, CU also is “hitting the reset button,” as coach Linda Lappe explained during the Pac-12 Conference media day Wednesday, with a batch of promising newcomers and a concerted approach to return to the program’s defense-first roots.

A threat to produce a double-double every night, Swan realizes her consistency will be the biggest key in CU’s goal of returning to the NCAA tournament. Yet she also boasts the maturity to understand she won’t be able to carry the Buffs single-handedly.

“I definitely look toward (juniors) Haley Smith and Lauren Huggins to help me through,” Swan said. “We’ve all played about the same amount and have the same amount of experience. For me, that’s how I hold myself accountable. I always talk to them.

“I don’t ever do anything out of ‘I’m doing it because I’m a senior.’ I’m always asking, ‘Haley, what do you think if I do this?’ It’s really helpful to have Haley and Lauren as other upperclassmen.”

Swan has displayed steady improvement throughout her CU career, appearing in all 98 games during her first three seasons while increasing her averages from 5.3 points and 4.5 rebounds as a freshman to 13.2 points and 7.9 rebounds a year ago.

With CU expected to employ a guard-heavy attack with youthful guards, Lappe has been pushing Swan to find more consistency in her game. While Swan posted eight double-doubles last year, she also had the occasional habit of failing to assert herself in several games.

“Jamee is one of our floor leaders,” Lappe said. “We expect her to be able to use her voice to communicate and direct. But she also understands where she’s best, and it’s not necessarily in a major leadership role off the floor. She knows who to defer to and who to ask and who to have help her in those situations.

“The biggest thing with Jamee is we’ve challenged her to be more consistent. The sky is the limit in terms of how good she can be. A lot of it is if she’s willing to come to work every single day and be that consistent force for us that we need in the post.”

Swan admits finding that consistency has been one of her primary goals during the offseason, but the results of that work may not be determined until the Buffs tip off the season on Nov. 14 against Loyola Marymount.

“I want to have a steady flow to my game where it’s not up and down,” Swan said. “That’s something I’ve been working on. I think I have it down but you never know until it starts to happen. The first week of practice I feel like I’ve had pretty consistent practices.”

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