When Linda Lappe posted the results of the Pac-12 preseason women’s basketball poll, which predicted the Buffs would finish 11th, on the door of her team’s locker room, the Buffs immediately became motivated.
“We were pretty hyped up about that,” said junior Chucky Jeffery. “It was kind of a shot at us. We take that to heart, and we’re going to come out with a chip on our shoulder, playing hard, because we have something to prove now.”
Lappe’s Buffs are coming off arguably the program’s best year since Ceal Barry roamed the sidelines at the Coors Events Center.
Colorado recorded a respectable record of 18-16 and appeared in the quarterfinals of the WNIT.
The record is made even more impressive considering CU played most games with only nine healthy players. In the non-conference portion of the 2010-11 season, the Buffs often played with only seven or eight healthy players.
One of the healthy players was Brittany Spears, who started every game for the Buffs. Spears graduated in the spring and left CU as the Buffs’ all-time leading scorer, passing Lisa Van Goor in the first round of the Big 12 tournament.
“She brought work ethic,” Lappe said of Spears. “She got those extra shots in every day after practice. She also wanted the ball in her hands when we needed to score.”
Candidates to replace Spears, who was a force on the boards, are Jeffery, who recorded a triple-double last year and is a mainstay in the Buffs’ offense, and Boulder native Meagan Malcolm-Peck, who has a deft shooting touch, along with strong size at 6 feet, 2 inches.
Even without Spears, Colorado should finish a little higher than 11th in a conference that is introducing six new head coaches. Lappe’s goal for her Buffs is to finish in the top half of the Pac-12.
“We should be in the top half of the league,” said Lappe. “If we’re not, I don’t know if we’re going to think of it as successful of a season.”
The Pac-12 is traditionally a top-heavy league, with Stanford leading the charge year after year. This year should be no exception, with UCLA, USC and California factoring not far behind. Lappe believes the Buffs have what it takes to finish in the top six in the Pac-12, and her former coach agrees.
“I think that Linda will have a team that will be right around the middle of the pack,” said Barry. “I think that she will be in the top six, but I think she will be on the lower end of that top six, but she can compete with Stanford. I mean, she did it as a player, so I think she will not have this fear of playing them. But Stanford is a long way off from us. It’s a process.”
The process will undoubtedly involve upgrading the talent level at Colorado, and Lappe appears to be doing a stellar job so far. Her first class contains a Parade All-American, the sister of a highly successful CU men’s player, and two other proven winners at the high school level.
Jen Reese, Arielle Roberson, Jasmine Sborov and Lexy Kresl are the four members of Lappe’s inaugural recruiting class.
“Our freshmen are on the fast track in terms of learning our system offensively, defensively, and in terms of learning what it takes to be successful at the Division I level,” said Lappe.
The Buffs tip off the new season with an exhibition against Regis on Sunday. Meaningful action begins on Nov. 11, as the Buffs take on Northern Arizona at the Coors Events Center.