Upon arriving in Boulder this summer, Janea Bunn instantly felt overwhelmed.
“My first day here I was crying,” said Bunn, a junior college transfer with the Colorado women’s basketball team. “The school was huge, I was lost. I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is not for me.'”
In the few months since, however, Bunn has learned to like Boulder and trust her new “family,” while also showing signs of being a key player for this year’s team.
“I’m starting to get the gist of things, starting to know where I’m going, starting to feel more confident walking around and being on the court,” said Bunn, a 6-foot-3 forward. “I feel much better.”
Comfort has been tough for Bunn to find in her life.
A native of Springfield, Mass., Bunn has dealt with more than her share of adversity.
“I’ve had a tough life,” she said. “I’ve been homeless, I’ve been in foster care, I’ve had to take care of my family (at different times).
“I made sure when I came here on the visits that (the CU coaches) understood what they were getting themselves into — just knowing a lot about me and how I am and stuff like that. They’ve been more than accepting. They take me with my flaws and all.”
Bunn may call them “flaws,” but head coach JR Payne doesn’t. Payne and her coaches saw great basketball potential in Bunn, but saw much more than that when they recruited her. Payne saw a young woman who needed some love and stability, and knew CU could provide that.
“The entire summer was solely spent on just spending time together,” Payne said. “We hardly did much basketball, to be honest with you. We did a little bit, just to ease into the transition. We spent tons of time together, just talking and hanging out and just trying to build trust.”
Payne, in her second season at CU, has always preached a family atmosphere with her team. For Bunn, who hasn’t had much family stability, that was important.
“Before I came here, I told all the coaches what I was looking for and for me to perform on the court, I need to have a relationship with the coaches off the court,” Bunn said. “I feel like they’ve definitely gone above and beyond to make me feel welcome. They’re always here to talk and listen and support me through whatever.”
In addition to her coaches, Bunn has relied on her teammates, and said junior guard Alexis Robinson has been especially comforting.
“She’s been helping keep me sane,” Bunn said. “She’s been very genuine and she helps me a lot.”
Prior to coming to CU, Bunn was a star at Central High School in Springfield, played one season at Northeast (Neb.) Community College, redshirted a year and then played last season at Midland (Tex.) College.
At each of her stops, Bunn has displayed exceptional ability on the court. Payne said Bunn is already the Buffs’ best rebounder.
“She is going to have an immediate impact on our program, both on the offensive and defensive end of the floor,” Payne said. “She’s big and strong, very athletic, loves to attack the basket. She’s going to be a great, impactful player.”
Knowing the potential Payne sees in her gets Bunn excited.
“It’s giving me a lot of confidence, because at the junior college level, all they wanted me to do was be a center,” she said. “I’m like, ‘I can do more than that. I have so much versatility.’ Here, they’re actually letting me do that. They consider me much more than that. They trust me.
“I feel like I’ve been kept a little hidden and now it’s time to show everybody what I can do.”
It’s not just Bunn’s basketball potential that’s ready to burst. Payne said Bunn has excelled in the classroom, and Bunn is starting to develop confidence off the court that hasn’t always been there.
“I feel better, I feel more confident and I’m working on building my self-esteem,” she said. “I’m definitely getting there.”
It hasn’t been easy for Bunn, yet she appreciates the path she’s taken to this point.
“It’s definitely made me tougher,” she said. “I know I’ve been through a lot, but it’s helped me become the person I am. If I was one of these kids who had everything handed to them, I probably would have quit at (basketball), but I’ve been through a lot and I’m tough and I’ve been through worse things. This is tough, but I’ve been through worse.”
Because she’s been through worse, Bunn is grateful for the opportunity to be in Boulder and play for the Buffs.
“I’m just so blessed to have been given the opportunity,” she said. “I’m very excited. I’m ready to get out there and show the world what I can do.”