Spring recruits add perimeter depth for CU women’s basketball

Coach JR Payne works the phones to land backcourt transfers

Colorado’s head coach, JR Payne in the huddle during the January 10, 2020 game in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

In a technological age, and within a coronavirus pandemic that has forced coaches in all sports to recruit virtually, the wooing of Tayanna Jones by the Colorado women’s basketball team was a little more old-fashioned.

Once head coach JR Payne and husband-associate head coach Toriano Towns stumbled across Jones’ highlights in the NCAA transfer portal, they hit the phones. They called Georgetown, Jones’ previous school, to learn a little more about the sophomore guard. And of course they connected with Jones for video calls, but also on phone calls, chatting time and time again to make sure a campus, and program, Jones was unable to visit would end up being a good fit.

The conversations proved beneficial. Last week, the Buffs officially added the 6-foot-2 Jones to the roster, completing a spring recruiting class that also includes junior college transfer Madison Buford. The pair of guards joins a recruiting class that includes November signees Frida Formann, Alyssa Lafontaine, and Air Academy’s Kylee Blacksten.

The latest additions fill Payne’s scholarship allotment.

“The transfer portal has certainly changed everything for everybody,” Payne said. “We saw (Jones’) name in the transfer portal and we knew that we wanted to add to our perimeter, and we needed kids that can shoot the ball. We love sort of long, lean, and athletic on the perimeter, so anybody who fit that mold we were investigating. We pulled up her clips and just loved what we saw. It’s not very often you have access to kids that have that combination of size and skill and things that just really fit what we want to do.

“She runs like the wind and can do a lot of different things with the ball. We called the Georgetown coaches to learn about her. We called her to talk to her. When you’re recruiting virtually, I think it’s worse for the student-athletes trying to find a new home. They’re trying to find a new home and everything is done through the computer. So we spent a lot of time with her on the phone. It was a great fit.”

Jones played in 27 games for the Hoyas this past season, making three starts while averaging 5.1 points and 3.3 rebounds. She shot just .304 overall and .254 (18-for-71) from 3-point range. At the time of Jones’ signing it seemed uncertain if she would be eligible immediately, given the NCAA’s pending vote to end the sit-out year for undergraduate transfers. However, on Friday the NCAA announced it is pushing that vote until January, meaning Jones likely will sit out next season with two years of eligibility remaining.

Buford will be eligible immediately after averaging 21.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game last season for Rend Lake (Ill.) Community College.

“We found (Buford) on film, and this has happened only once before where we were watching someone else’s film,” Payne said. “(Towns) was watching someone else’s film and he was like, ‘Oh my gosh, who is this guard on the other team?’ So then we stopped watching the other kid and started watching her. We started researching and found she was one of the top five scorers in the country and it really went from there. Both of them I think can really help us next year.”