Nearing the end of her freshman season with the Colorado women’s basketball team a year ago, Aubrey Knight was on the right track.
An exceptional athlete with a do-whatever-is-asked attitude, Knight was a valuable player off the bench for the Buffaloes during the 2017-18 season and was looking forward to a bigger role the next season.
A pair of shoulder injuries relegated Knight to a cheerleader role for the past year, but she’s finally healthy and ready to help the Buffaloes next season.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” she said recently. “The shoulder is coming along.
“It’s nice to be able to play basketball again, that’s for sure.”
A 6-foot-1 wing with a passion for rebounding, Knight missed three games at the end of her freshman season after injuring her shoulder the first time. She then spent all of last offseason recovering and getting ready for her sophomore year.
Knight exploded in CU’s preseason exhibition game, recording 17 points, seven rebounds and three steals. After a couple solid games off the bench, however, Knight found herself on the sidelines again with yet another shoulder injury. After just three early-season games, Knight missed the rest of the season.
“It was a bummer,” she said. “You don’t think injures are going to happen to you. I went my entire high school career and the beginning of (freshman) season being fine. It really makes you appreciate the game. When it happened this year, I was really bummed.”
It would have been easy for Knight to hang her head. Instead, she threw herself into a supporting role.
“I had to snap out of that really fast for my teammates and my team,” she said. “I just had to think about them and not necessarily myself at that point and just get healthy, have surgery again and hopefully be back for next year.”
With the Buffs having a young team, Knight knew she needed to be a leader.
“I had to be engaged for them,” she said.
It wasn’t just for her teammates, though. Staying engaged as a leader had a positive impact on Knight.
“It’s more fun when you’re engaged,” she said. “Going through an injury, it can get really hard at certain times, but the coaches and my teammates have been there with me though every step. That was something really important.”
CU head coach JR Payne and her staff saw leadership qualities in Knight when they recruited her, and Payne saw that leadership blossom last season.
“I’ve seen her grow in her leadership, as far as talking and trying to keep a really positive mindset for herself and also her teammates around her,” Payne said.
Sitting out last season has also helped Knight develop her mental game.
“It was a different aspect of the game I’d never experienced,” Knight said. “I think it gave me that kind of perspective, which will hopefully help me next year.”
A third-year sophomore, Knight will be one of the older players on the team next season, and the Buffs will need not only her leadership, but her ability to score and rebound.
“A lot,” Payne said when asked how much the Buffs will lean on Knight next season. “She doesn’t have the game experience that some of the others do because she didn’t play this year, but her work ethic is unquestionable. She’s just a tremendous person, she works hard and she loves her teammates fiercely.”
For the first time since Knight arrived at CU, she’ll have a full offseason of skill development. Add that to her mental growth, and Knight could be a much different player next season.
“I think I went through a lot of adversity this year that made me mentally stronger and I kind of set a goal for what I want for the rest of my three years of eligibility,” she said. “I want to be a leader and I want to be someone that can contribute on the court. I just want to be a more consistent player and be able to score the basketball and just be anything that my teammates, honestly, need me to be and whatever role my coaches put me in.”