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CU Buffs women’s basketball has depth, versatility at guard

Head coach JR Payne has plenty of options to run the offense

BOULDER, CO - SEPTEMBER 30: University of Colorado Boulder senior guard Lesila Finau (4) passes during a practice on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, in Boulder, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)
BOULDER, CO – SEPTEMBER 30: University of Colorado Boulder senior guard Lesila Finau (4) passes during a practice on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, in Boulder, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

Throughout most of JR Payne’s tenure as head coach of the women’s basketball team at Colorado, there has been one main player running the offense.

In Payne’s first three years, it was Kennedy Leonard at point guard. For most of her fourth year and the first half of last year, it was Jaylyn Sherrod. Sila Finau ran the point when Sherrod went out with an injury midway through last season.

This year is different, as the Buffaloes have multiple options.

“It’s a lot of competition,” Payne said.

BOULDER, CO – SEPTEMBER 30: University of Colorado Boulder freshman guard Kindyll Wetta (15) passes during a team practice on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, in Boulder, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

Although the Buffs (12-11 last season) are not deep in the frontcourt, they are loaded with talent at guard and they’ll rely on that versatility this year. Ten of the 16 players on the roster are listed as guards and several of them can run the point.

“Knowing that we have that depth and versatility from almost each and every single one of us is actually really helpful,” said Finau, a senior. “We can get subbed right away if we need it.”

The Buffs, in fact, are deep enough at guard that Finau, who played point guard in the second of last season and led the Buffs with 60 assists, could see most of her time on the wing.

“Sila … she’s playing well at the one,” Payne said. “She also is playing really well at the two. She also is playing really well at the three. We’re just trying to figure out who can be versatile. Who can play different positions, who’s playing well, what are we missing?  So the competition is stiff at the one, but I also expect some of those point guards to be able to move around and play different positions.”

Sherrod, a junior, is healthy again after having season-ending hip surgery last year, and she will often have the ball in her hands. But, she’s also excited about sharing the role with talented freshman Kindyll Wetta and others.

“I think it’s just a trust thing and knowing that whoever coach J decides to put in, being that we can all play a different position on the floor, you can throw in different lineups, you can put people in different positions to just get the best out of everybody,” Sherrod said. “I think it’s just exciting to know that everybody is in a position to get it done from whatever spot they are on the floor.”

Going into the season, Sherrod and Wetta are likely to be the primary point guards, with Finau, Frida Formann and Tameiya Sadler, a transfer from Washington, on the wing. Finau, Formann and Sadler all have experience as point guards.

The Buffs also have Kylee Blacksten, Sophie Gerber, Tayanna Jones, Aubrey Knight and Allysa Lafontaine as wings.

“For us, we’d like to play long (with bigger players), but we also have some really, really talented players that aren’t super long and it would be crazy not to have them on the floor,” Payne said. “We have had some players that are playing different positions. We’re continuing to work to figure out what’s the best lineup for us.”

At times, the best lineup might call for Sherrod to play off the ball. That’s new for her, but he’s looking forward to it.

“I still play a prominent role (at point), but at the same time I think being on the wing just allows me to bring a different element of my game to the table,” Sherrod said. “It just pushes me to learn different moves and get my shot together and work on the pull-up and everything else that comes with being in a scoring position.”

Finau has more experience off the ball than Sherrod, but gained a lot of confidence last year when she took over at point. Now she knows – and coaches know – she can do both.

“It was actually very helpful, just knowing that I can do it myself,” Finau said. “When I need to perform, the coaches can trust in me that I can do my job. Just bringing that into this season, I think it’ll be even more helpful.”

CU will host Colorado School of Mines in an exhibition on Monday at CU Events Center and then officially open the season Nov. 10 at Oklahoma State. With the season quickly approaching, the Buffs have some kinks to work out, but they are excited about the options and potential at the guard positions.

“I’m really excited,” Sherrod said. “We push each other every day to be better and it just flows. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and we put everyone in the best position.”

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