SAN FRANCISCO — The 2020-21 basketball season was a trying one for all involved, from following strict COVID-19 protocols to the lack of fans in the stands to the sudden cancellations that put the schedule in a constant state of flux.
For Jaylyn Sherrod, it was a little more frustrating and much more painful.
While the Buffs were surging down the stretch, setting the stage for the biggest expectations yet during coach JR Payne’s tenure, Sherrod was relegated to the sideline, the victim of a hip injury she had been trying to play through since high school.
When it got to the point that Sherrod no longer could even drive her car significant distances without pain and discomfort, she realized running the point for the Buffaloes no longer was an option. Recently cleared to resume full practice routines without any restrictions, CU essentially will add a gutsy, play-making guard to the mix after an encouraging finish that has the Buffs thinking big this season.
“It’s been a journey. I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been tough,” Sherrod said. “I think just being able to fully, medically, be ready to go is kind of relieving and reassuring to hear. It was a little bit of betting on myself, knowing I had to take the responsibility to make sure I did what was best for my body. At the end of the day, the biggest decision was that (last) season, you’re getting it back. So you might as well go ahead and do it instead of making it worse and then down the road having to waste a season.
“I learned a lot. I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about my teammates. I can say I really appreciate how my teammates did in my absence.”
On Tuesday at the Pac-12 Conference’s annual media day, the Buffs were picked seventh in the preseason coaches poll. The Buffs earned more points in the vote (65) and finished higher than any of the previous five seasons under Payne.
Sherrod’s final game last season was a memorable one, as she recorded nine points and three assists in an upset win against Stanford, the CU program’s first win ever against a No. 1-ranked team. A month earlier, the Buffs were a dreadful game at the free throw line (11-for-22) away from knocking off No. 6 Arizona, which would have given the Buffs wins against both teams that eventually squared off the national championship game.
Ultimately, CU won its final four regular-season games, three of them on the road, and after stubbing their toes against Washington in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament, the Buffs rebounded to post two wins in the WNIT.
Sherrod returns to a mix featuring just about all the players who put together that late run, and a recurring mantra of Payne’s so far this preseason has been to remind the Buffs that potential means little once the season tips off.
“I think everyone in our program knows we have a lot of potential. I think everyone in our program also if very cognizant that we don’t want to be a team of just potential,” Payne said. “We want to be a team that is maximizing our potential and is exceeding our own expectations in a competitive nature and accountability and things like that. As coaches, we’re being very intentional about not talking about, ‘Oh, we have to do this and that.’ It’s more about, ‘What did you do today?’ I don’t care if you’re a fifth-year senior or a freshman, the expectations for ourselves and each other should be very high.”