CU women’s basketball: Young guards point Buffs in right direction

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  • Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer

    Sophomore point guard Brecca Thomas, left, played in all 32 games for Colorado last season and made four starts. She's competing for a starting job this season.



CU women’s basketball

Head coach: Linda Lappe, sixth season (98-69; 148-105 career).

Last season: 15-17 overall, 6-12 Pac-12.

Returning starters (2): G/F Haley Smith, 6-foot-1, Jr. (9.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.2 apg); F Jamee Swan, 6-2, Sr. (13.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.9 apg).

Other returners (5): F Zoe Beard-Fails, 6-1, Jr. (3.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg); C Zoe Correal, 6-4, So. (1.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg); G/F Lauren Huggins, 6-2, Jr. (4.5 ppg, 1.6 rpg); G Brecca Thomas, 5-5, So. (3.3 ppg, 0.9 rpg, 1.3 apg); C Bri Watts, 6-2, Jr. (0.5 ppg, 0.9 rpg).

Newcomers (5): F Monica Burich, 6-2, Fr.; F Makenzie Ellis, 6-2, Fr.; G Ariana Freeman, 5-9, So. (transfer from Louisville); G Kennedy Leonard, 5-8, Fr.; G Alexis Robinson, 5-10, Fr.

Notable: The Buffs are seeking their fifth postseason appearance in six years under Lappe. … Lappe is already the second winningest coach in CU history, behind long-time coach Ceal Barry, who went 427-242 in 22 seasons. … The Buffs ranked eighth in the country and first in the Pac-12 in 3-point field goal percentage (38.2) last season. … The Buffs were last in the Pac-12 in scoring defense, allowing 68.3 points per game. … Led by Swan, the Buffs were second in the Pac-12 in rebounding margin (plus-5.1) last year. … Burich (torn ACL) is out for the season, and Freeman must sit out due to the NCAA transfer rule.

With the start of the women’s basketball season just days away, Linda Lappe had no idea who would start at point guard for her team.

Colorado’s sixth-year head coach isn’t too worried about it, though.

“We’re pretty far ahead in that position,” Lappe said. “We feel like we have three really good point guards. To me, it doesn’t necessarily matter who starts.”

What matters to Lappe and the Buffs is that their point guards play well and help the team rebound from last year’s disappointment.

CU went 15-17 a year ago, the first losing season in Lappe’s tenure. It was also the first time under her direction that the Buffs didn’t play in the postseason.

The Buffs open their season on Saturday at home against Loyola Marymount. One of the biggest keys to getting back on the winning track is getting exceptional play from the point guard position.

Sophomore Brecca Thomas and true freshman Kennedy Leonard are the main competitors for that spot, and it’s an ongoing battle.

“It’s honestly a day-by-day thing,” said Thomas, who played in all 32 games last year, with four starts. “You have to be consistent and show up every day. Whoever does that, that’s the one who is in line for the spot. You just have to be ready.”

In addition to Thomas and Leonard, freshman Alexis Robinson, who is mainly a wing, also has point guard ability. It gives Lappe comfort knowing that all three can handle the ball and run the offense.

“We have some options, and the good thing is we don’t just have one guard that can bring up the basketball against the press,” Lappe said. “We have a lot of different players that can help with that.”

The Buffs certainly need some help after struggling in that area last season.

As a team, CU ranked seventh in the Pac-12 in assist-to-turnover ratio (0.89), and the Buffs were last in turnover margin, committing 5.28 more per game than their opponents. The next worst team was Utah, at minus-3.8.

While the Buffs have youth at the point this year, they are confident in their ability to change that number.

“In previous years, I know people have been worried about getting the ball up the court,” Leonard said. “Not as many as people are worried (this year). We know we’re going to get up the court.”

Lappe considers CU’s ability to limit turnovers as a major point of emphasis this season.

“We have to value the basketball,” she said. “We want to get the extra possessions. We don’t want to give the other teams extra possessions and always have to fight to make up for those.”

Limiting turnovers will be a collective effort, which is why Lappe isn’t too concerned about who starts. In fact, she said Thomas and Leonard could both be 30-minute-per-game players and that they could be on the court together quite a bit.

“It’s a fast-paced game,” Thomas said. “We may need to rotate more than we did in the past couple of years. I think it does keep everyone on their toes.”

Despite their youth, CU’s point guards understand their importance to the team’s success, and they can’t wait to get started.

“Everybody has been talking about (the point guard spot),” Leonard said. “I’m part of the talk, so I’m excited to see how it plays out and how it goes. Hopefully it goes in a way that helps this team win, because that’s all we ultimately want to do is get wins.”

Brian Howell:, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.