2003-04 Colorado Women's Basketball Preview

The University of Colorado women's basketball team officially begins the 2003-04 season with the second annual WBCA Classic in Boulder Friday and Saturday night. Here is a BuffCountry preview of the upcoming year. The preview includes a breakdonw of every player and the schedule.

Ceal Berry's Buffaloes open the 2003-04 season with intentions of making their third NCAA Tournament appearance in as many seasons, and their fifth consecutive showing in non-Big 12 postseason action dating back to 1997. Colorado anticipates to depend heavily on its backcourt, wherein lies nearly all of the team's experience and refined talent. The Buffalo forward and center spots will by far be the team's most intrusive inner-obstacle, as most of CU's postseason and letter-winning experience remains tied up in its guard positions. This will leave Berry with a unique misbalance to contend with along with the decidedly difficult competition her team will face throughout the year, on uncharacteristic of Colorado teams which have preformed well in the past.

Also very present in the eyes of Berry and her coaching staff will be the challenge of replacing forgone seniors Linda Lappe and Sabrina Scott, two elements of last year's Buff team instrumental in its Sweet 16 appearance last season.

The two were of equal importance in CU's offense last season, which revolved around the presence of 6-foot-5 then-junior Tera Bjorklund. Lappe and Scott combined for 18.0 points, 10.7 rebounds, and a .423 conference field goal percentage per game last year.

"You don't just replace players like that," Berry said of her departed stars. "You have to take players that are going to play minutes and see what their strengths are going to be."

Who you need to know

#10 Maria Billingsley 5-6 – Guard – Senior – 1-year Letter Stockholm, Sweden – Transfer from Central Arizona College

Notable Number: 10 and 6; Number of points and assists Billingsley contributed in CU's December overtime defeat of Syracuse last season.

What she brings: The senior took it upon herself to improve her dribbling skills during the offseason, particularly in her right hand. The starter won't score most of CU's points, but her vision has always been amongst the best of starting point guards in the Big 12.

How she brings it: Billingsley's passing ability makes her a perfect fit for the starting point position in Berry's high-motion offense. She has good basketball smarts, and is not entirely inept from drilling a clutch three-pointer though her first look will always be to pass.

#50 Tera Bjorklund 6-5 – Center – Senior – 3-year Letter Saint Peter, Minnesota – Sibley East High School

Notable Number: 34; Points she scored in CU's upset of North Carolina last season.

What she brings: What doesn't she bring? There are about two sure things regarding the upcoming season for the Buffs: one; Tera Bjorklund is a sure All-American, and, two; she is the heart and soul of this basketball team. It's no secret that Tera is the intended center of this offense. In fact, it's just the opposite. Ask coach Berry or any of her players and they'll tell you that their role on the team is opening up the floor for Tera to work her magic. Berry herself put it simply enough in one of CU's practices this season: "Tera is probably the best scoring center we've had at CU since Isabelle Fijalowski."

How she brings it: Like so many in the country at her position, Tera has a well-trained nose for the basket. What separates her from the pack is everything else she does. She's among the fastest big girls in the country getting up and down the floor, and it seems like she doesn't have an awkward post-move in her arsenal. Tera's not a phenomenal defender, but her 6-5 frame does fine to get in the way of whoever she's guarding who is usually her size or smaller.

#1 Kate Fagan 5-9 – Guard – Senior – 3-year Letter Schenectady, New York – Niskayuna High School

Notable Number: 31; Number of career double-digit scoring games Fagan has dropped for CU.

What she brings: Fagan returns to the Colorado lineup following her most productive season at the University last winter. She led the Big 12 in three-pointers as a junior in 2002, and CU fans can expect more of the same this season for the fifth-year senior.

How she brings it: There's no question Kate can drain the outside shot, which will account for a large part of CU's offensive production without the experience they lost this past offseason. Fagan's own experience against big names in the Big 12 will help the Buffs when they need it most as conference play approaches.

#54 Randie Wirt 6-2 – Forward – Senior – 3-year Letter New Prague, Minnesota – New Prague High School

Notable Number: 2; Number of free throws Wirt made in consecutive order to clinch Colorado's upset of No. 2 Stanford in 2001 to advance CU to the Elite 8.

What she brings: Wirt has convinced Berry that she's the one most suited to start in the highly-contested small forward position, after a pre-season during which no less than five Buffaloes were serious contenders for the spot. Wirt will definitely contribute in experience to a Buff team that is sure to need just that.

How she brings it: Randie says she's in as good of shape as she's ever been, which leaves just one question of the three-year letter winner: can she hit the outside shot when it's there?With teams likely double-teaming Bjorklund inside, Wirt will see more than her fair share of long ball chances.

#5 Veronica Johns-Richardson 5-9 – Guard – Junior – 2-year Letter Fullerton, California – Troy High School

Notable Number: .392; Veronica's three-point percentage at CU which is good enough for fifth on the all-time list.

What she brings: V is one of CU's quickest and most athletic players. She, of anyone, fits today's mold of a flashy shooting guard, and the Buffs will need her to play just that in a more prominent role than she has before, which the junior will need some time to get used to. Still, she's just a little decision-making practice away from second team All-American contention. In any case, she'll be fun to watch.

How she brings it: Veronica's just a better basketball player in 2003 than she's ever been. She's a little quicker, she's in a lot better shape, and her ball-handling early this exhibition season is notably improved. All this is necessary for her success this season, as her coach will call on her to contribute in up to 30 minutes per game.

#24 Whitney Law 5-11 – Guard – Sophomore (RS) Littleton, CO – Chatfield High School

Notable Number: 0; Number of games Law has played for CU in her career. Law was forced to redshirt last season because of the NCAA transfer rule, but was able to practice will the team all season which, ultimately, helped her game tremendously.

What she brings: For Law to redshirt given her situation after the transfer was brilliant, especially because it gives her a chance to learn Berry's infamous triangle offense. She's done nothing but study the attack and flow of the hardest offense at her level, and that can only mean great things for the Buffs. Law's a strong shooter with a quick first step and a keen sense for her opponent's weaknesses. She'll be a key component of CU's bench.

How she brings it: Law has one huge personal advantage on the floor: she loves the game. Her favorite non-basketball activity is lifting weights, and her mind is never more than a blacktop away from the sport. She may not have the raw talent to break the Big 12 scoring list this season, but Law is a shoe-in to start the point for CU next season.

#2 Amber Metoyer 5-10 – Forward – Sophomore – 1-year Letter Boulder, CO – Fairview High School

Notable Number: 1; Number of times the true sophomore has led her team in scoring, showing that there's a genuine offensive spark in this Boulder native that opponents would be stupid to overlook in preparing for the Buffs.

What she brings: Amber's teammates refer to Amber as their team's most ‘fearless' and athletic player. Her confidence will only add to a two-year career which has already broken her school's all-time list in 14 categories.

How she brings it: Amber's a lot stronger than she was last year. Her downfall, and it's a big one, is her passing decision. The Buff offense is one of quick decisions and split-second choices, and Metoyer has had problems in the past with turnovers. Even so, look for her to be a solid contributor off the bench.

Games worth your money

Dec. 9 vs. Washington

- The Huskies may present CU's most challenging non-conference opposition of the season as this perennial powerhouse make a rare visit to Boulder in what will easily be the Buffs' most vital early season challenge. Washington went 22-8 last year and finished second in an always-competitive Pac-10 conference. Senior guard Giuliana Mendiola (17.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game) will bring a unique threat to CU as a genuine shooting guard who can play with the best in the country from literally everywhere on the floor.

Jan. 10 vs. Kansas State

- There are a lot of unknowns heading into any college basketball season; this is not one of them. K-State–Colorado is always good. Regardless of the recruiting class, these are two teams that always seem to match up well against one another. CU leads the all-time series 29-22, and 14-7 in Boulder, but this year's Wildcat team will not be dismissed as easily as in seasons past. KSU will bring no less than three true scorers who can light up any team in the country for double-figures on any night of the week.

Feb. 14 vs. Texas

- The Longhorns will probably turn out to be the most balanced team in the Big 12, and if it's not them, then it's CU. Position for position, you couldn't hope for a more complete matchup from a game. Add to that the implications of a conference title fight late into the season, and CU's homestand against UT will probably be Colorado's single most important game of the regular season.

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