Adding new players to a veteran roster can be tricky, but for the Colorado women’s basketball team, it’s been a smooth transition.
CU, which officially started practice on Tuesday, returns four starters and eight rotational players from last year’s team that went 25-9 and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
In the offseason, however, the Buffs added senior transfers Maddie Nolan, a 5-foot-11 guard from Michigan, and Sara-Rose Smith, a 6-foot-1 guard from Missouri.
“They’re incredible,” CU head coach JR Payne said. “They’ve done a great job. One week in (after arriving this summer), you wouldn’t have known that they were new to Colorado or new to our team. They’re very confident, they are great teammates, they believe in a high level of accountability.
“Maddie has been a leader on her team. I don’t know if she was captain or not (at Michigan) – she certainly acts like she would have been, because she’s holding us to a very high standard.”
Senior returners Frida Formann, Quay Miller and Jaylyn Sherrod, as well as junior Kindyll Wetta, already play big leadership roles for the Buffs, but Payne said Nolan and Smith “are contributing to that, as well.”
Miller said the two transfers had a smooth transition, but the five true freshmen are still finding their way.
“I think (the freshmen) were really shocked that this is life now,” Miller said. “Just coming from high school and going into college, I want to say a culture shock because it is hard. I think they’re just still adjusting.”
CU opens the season on Nov. 6 and it might be the most anticipated opener in program history. The Buffs will face defending national champion LSU in Las Vegas to kick off the season.
“I’m very excited about that,” Miller said. “We know that we can compete with them. I don’t think people are thinking about it, but I know for me I’m excited because that’s gonna be a big stage.”
LSU figures to be ranked No. 1 going into the season.
“It makes sure that our focus is where it needs to be on a daily basis, because there is no time to ease into anything,” Payne said. “When you’re going to play the national champion on opening night who returns everyone and added arguably the best transfers in the country to their roster, you don’t have time. You’ve got to be relentless every single day in how you train, how you focus, what you’re doing.”
CU’s 11-game non-conference schedule includes five games against Power 5 opponents and only five games at home. The slate includes a three-game trip to the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands on Thanksgiving weekend.
“It’s definitely the hardest preseason schedule we’ve ever played,” said Payne, going into her eighth season at CU. “We like the balance. I wish we had more home games, but we’re setting ourselves up for a challenging schedule.”
CU will have an exhibition game at home on Oct. 28. … Home opener will be Nov. 8 against Le Moyne. Game time is still to be determined.