Camp season is always busy, but for JR Payne, the sights and sounds of kids running around the CU Events Center and her players working as instructors bring a smile to her face.
“I can’t believe we’re starting again,” Payne, the Colorado women’s basketball head coach, said last week. “We’re really excited with this team.”
The basketball season is still four months away, but the CU women are ramping up now.
Coming off the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in nine years, veterans and newcomers are in Boulder and starting offseason workouts, in addition to working at camps.
The group is gearing up not only for the season, but also for an overseas trip next month. The NCAA allows teams to make an overseas trip every four years. CU went to Italy in 2018 and this year’s seniors chose a 10-day trip to Spain.
CU will visit Valencia, Madrid and Barcelona, playing a game in each city during the tour.
“There will be live game scenarios,” Payne said. “The best part for me is the practice that we get. When you do a foreign tour, the NCAA gives you 10 regular practices, and that’s outside of your normal eight hours a week. We won’t actually utilize full practices and beat our bodies up too much this summer, but it’s great to not have as much restriction on the time that we can spend.”
This is an important offseason for the Buffs with the roster in transition.
Starters Sila Finau, Mya Hollingshed and Peanut Tuitele have all graduated and moved on. Overall, seven of the 14 scholarship players from last year are gone, either from graduation, the transfer portal or medical retirement.
Joining the seven returning scholarship players (plus walk-on Sophie Gerber) is Arizona transfer center Aaronette Vonleh and four true freshmen: posts Ally Fitzgerald and Brianna McLeod and wings Lizzie Holder and Jada Wynn.
“This summer I think we really are trying to establish a brand of training for everyone,” Payne said. “Our veterans have a pretty good idea of what successful training looks like, but we want to make sure when a quarter of your team is new, it’s important that we get everyone on the same page as far as just how we want to train and things like that.”
“(Another focus is) to really invest in relationships with each other. Our upperclassmen are doing a great job of intentionally spending time with everyone so that we can become as tight knit of a group as possible.”
The group could still get bigger, as CU has three open scholarships. Payne said the Buffs are recruiting and looking at transfers, but she would be “absolutely” happy if they went into the season with the roster currently on board.
“For us, it’s just really important that we recruit the right people,” she said. “We’re not really taking any risks as far as who we bring into our program. … We still could sign one or two more.”
For now, the newcomers are getting used to their new surroundings and Payne said she has seen the veterans stepping up to help. In particular, point guards Jaylyn Sherrod and Kindyll Wetta were mentioned as leaders this summer.
“Everyone’s doing a great job of trying to get (the newcomers) acclimated and spend time and help and educate and talk through stuff and all that has been good,” Payne said.
Payne said improving the 3-point shooting will be an emphasis this offseason. “It was by far our biggest weakness (last season),” she said. “It’s definitely something we’re prioritizing.” … CU is also welcoming two new staff members, assistant coach Tim Hays and director of player development Shelley Sheetz. … Payne said guard Tameiya Sadler, who missed the end of the season with a back injury, is doing well and “like normal.” She added doctors aren’t concerned with Sadler playing again and that Sadler is playing with confidence. “We need her to really step up and challenge her to be what she’s capable of being,” Payne said.