Statistics paint the picture of a relatively easy freshman year for Jaylyn Sherrod.
A 5-foot-7 point guard from Birmingham, Ala., Sherrod became a fixture in the Colorado women’s basketball team starting lineup by December, led the team in assists while finishing second in scoring and was one of the top young players in the Pac-12.
Internally, Sherrod’s first season was more of a struggle.
“I took time out (after the season) to just reset everything because I think at the end of the year, I kind of hit a wall, in a sense,” Sherrod said. “It was more personal, but I hit it and it showed on the court.”
While she enjoys the team and CU, Sherrod was like a lot of freshmen who are going through a major life change in their first year away from home.
“I’m the type that I have to study my surroundings, study my people first, especially as a point guard, to know my pieces that I have around me,” she said.
As she studied and observed, Sherrod kept quiet instead of expressing her thoughts and feelings to coaches and teammates.
“I more so kept it to myself and I dealt with it in the dark, so to say,” she said. “It messed me up mentally, because I just had so much going on in my head that when it came to basketball, I played hard and my passion for basketball never diminished, but I also wasn’t really in the moment the way I should have been.”
After beginning the year as a backup who was fighting for a starting job, Sherrod wound up averaging 9.9 points and 5.1 assists per game, while earning Pac-12 All-Freshman honors. She had the ninth-best single-season assist total (152) in CU history.
On and off the court, there were good and not-so-good moments in her first season with the Buffs.
In the three months since CU’s season came to an abrupt end because of the COVID-19 pandemic – the Buffs (16-14) likely would have received an invitation to the women’s NIT – Sherrod has reflected on her first season. Her first step towards improvement, she said, is to stop bottling up her thoughts and feelings.
“I’m just starting to be more outspoken on the team with the coaches,” she said. “I talk to coaches all the time … just talking about things that I see in film or things that I think we can get better at as a team. And I’m just talking to my teammates consistently while we’re all in different parts of the world. So I just think I settled and took a new approach.”
Sherrod’s approach last season was to simply put her head down and go to work. In fact, the season was such a whirlwind that she said, “I didn’t really understand how good of a year I actually had until after the season.”
It was a season that head coach JR Payne and her staff thought was possible for Sherrod, but they tried to ease her into it. Sherrod and then-sophomore Sila Finau opened the season competing for the starting job at point guard as the Buffs looked to replace all-time assists leader Kennedy Leonard.
Finau started the first six games, but Sherrod began to separate herself – including 11 assists in her debut – and, by Pac-12 play, become one of the Buffs’ top players. She even posted a double-double (19 points, 10 assists) in the Pac-12 opener.
“We knew she’d be really good,” Payne said. “We didn’t know she’d have 11 assists in her first game and things like that. We didn’t know she would be as consistently good early.”
Late in the year, Sherrod’s points and assists remained fairly consistent, but she struggled with her shot and finishing at the rim.
Since March, Sherrod has been in Birmingham, finishing school and working on her game. She also had two separate one-week stints in Tampa, Fla., where she worked out with New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston, his wife and a couple of Sherrod’s high school teammates.
“(Winston) trains with the same guy that I train with, and he got us in the gym and I was able to work out with him on another level, seeing a professional athlete and how he works out on a consistent basis,” Sherrod said.
Her main points of emphasis have been shooting the ball with confidence, leadership and being more vocal. She has also been introduced to yoga and better eating regiments.
“I think I’ve done 10 times better over the offseason,” she said. “It’s just about getting better at the things you need to get better and then master the things that you’re already pretty good at. That’s pretty much the approach I’ve taken.”
Sherrod said she knows she’s not the best shooter or passer, but had confidence she could succeed in the Pac-12, in part because “I know that what I have is the intangibles that a lot of people don’t have and that’s just my will and my effort to do the small things.”
This offseason, she’s adding up more small things and hopes they lead to next season being better.
“My goals have changed from freshman year to sophomore year of where I want to be at the end of my career,” she said. “All of that has come together for me and working on getting to that point, so I’m very excited. I just want to see how I can take it to another level.”