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Aaronette Vonleh fitting in with Colorado Buffs women’s basketball

BOULDER-CO-October 5:Aaronette Vonleh talks to a ...
Aaronette Vonleh talks to a reporter during basketball media day on Oct. 5 in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

When the Arizona women’s basketball team faced Colorado in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas on March 3, Aaronette Vonleh was preparing to transfer, but never thought she would one day be a Buffalo.

“I wasn’t sure it would be specifically Colorado, but they definitely grabbed my attention in that game,” she said.

CU’s 45-43 upset of the then-No. 14 Wildcats wasn’t the main factor in her decision, but it certainly didn’t hurt. Seven months later, Vonleh is preparing for her first season with the Buffs.

“(Arizona) just wasn’t the right fit for me,” said Vonleh, a 6-foot-3 sophomore center. “I couldn’t see myself being there for four years so I knew I probably should just take the chance and see if I can find the right fit for the next three years. Luckily, I chose a place where I think I can be successful for the rest of my career.”

LAS VEGAS, NEV. -- Arizona's Aaronette Vonleh, right, guards Colorado's Mya Hollingshed during the Pac-12 Tournament on March 3, 2022, at Michelob Ultra Arena. (Arizona Athletics)
Arizona’s Aaronette Vonleh, right, guards Colorado’s Mya Hollingshed during the Pac-12 Tournament on March 3, 2022, at Michelob Ultra Arena. (Arizona Athletics/courtesy photo)

Vonleh played sparingly for the Wildcats last year, averaging 4.1 points and 1.6 rebounds in 17 games. She had two points in three minutes against the Buffs in the Pac-12 Tournament.

With the Buffs, she has the potential to be a different maker in the paint.

“Aaronette Vonleh is going to be a hugely impactful player for us,” CU head coach JR Payne said.

Payne and the CU staff recruited Vonleh out of West Linn (Ore.) High School, which made it easy to rekindle a relationship when Vonleh went into the transfer portal in the spring.

So far, Vonleh is thrilled with her decision.

“I like it a lot,” she said. “I’m from Oregon so it just reminds me of home – the community, the team, everything has been really good so far.”

While Arizona wasn’t a great fit for her, she does appreciate her time with the Wildcats, as she was able to use that season to acclimate to college basketball and college life.

“I think that first year is kinda just getting that experience, seeing the differences, what I need to work on more and do differently,” she said. “This year, I just focused on applying those things and also being able to help the freshmen that just came in since I just went through the same thing.”

Including her season at Arizona, which reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Vonleh is used to being around big-time basketball.

A four-star recruit coming out of high school, Vonleh is the sister of the Boston Celtics’ Noah Vonleh, who was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.

“He’s just been another support system I can go to,” said Vonleh, who is eight years younger than her brother. “He’s always telling me the things I don’t necessarily want to hear but need to hear. It’s just nice to have somebody that I know will tell me the raw truth.

“He’s also experienced (college basketball). Even though it was on the men’s side, they’re both pretty similar. Training with him has definitely helped me a lot over the years and watching his game and trying to be like him.”

While CU expects Vonleh to contribute points and rebounds, her experiences and leadership could be invaluable for a Buffs’ program still growing. The Buffs reached the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time since 2013 and have been there just twice in the last 18 years.

“There’s definitely pros and cons to going to a program that’s already there (Arizona) and then going to one that is on the rise,” Vonleh said. “I think I prefer this situation. Everybody obviously wants to get to the tournament, but we have big goals outside of that too, just to become a better program overall and stay in it for the long term and not just one time. We want to keep going back every year, so building that is fun.”