March 24, 2023
Heart and soul leadership of Jaylyn Sherrod propels Colorado
'She wants to win so badly'
In the moment’s after Colorado’s upset win over Duke in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Monday night, Buffaloes’ senior point guard Jaylyn Sherrod donned the headset for ESPN’s postgame interview. There, she laid out both her story and her heart.
Overcome with emotion, Sherrod talked about her loyalty to Colorado head coach J.R. Payne, her underwhelming recruitment out of high school in Birmingham, Alabama, and a hip injury that almost blew the whole thing up.
“Honest to God, Colorado was my only Power 5 offer,” Sherrod said, wiping tears as her team celebrated behind her. “My senior year (of high school) I had a hip injury and two years later, I had season-ending hip surgery. And Coach J never wavered. She always believed in me.
“I was told I was too small, I didn’t have the skills to play point guard at a Power 5 level, and she really believed in me and stayed with me through it all. Loyalty is why I came here and stayed for four years and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
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For Sherrod, to be at this point in the NCAA Tournament feels like the start of a sprint that’s been years in the making. Sherrod, one of the fastest players left in the tournament, has been in the starting blocks for a long time. This is her chance to see a finish line, still in the distance to be sure. But she is closer than she’s ever been.
“What I feel is an overwhelming sense of gratitude,” Sherrod said Thursday. “From my freshman year, my whole plan has been to come to Colorado, contribute and leave it better than when I got here.”
Colorado is in the regional semifinals for the first time in two decades, taking on No. 2 seed Iowa and the tournament’s most talked-about player in Caitlin Clark. Holding Clark to mortal numbers will be a task that Sherrod relishes.
Sherrod, who came into the Tournament one of five Division I players averaging 10.0 points, 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game, scored 14 points against Duke in the second round, including the basket that sent the game into overtime.
It will be her defense, she led the Pac-12 in steals and was named to the All-Defensive team for the third time, that will likely be most valuable against the Hawkeyes.
“I don’t know that anybody in the country is going to shut down Caitlin Clark, but it’s going to be a group effort,” Sherrod said. “We are going to do what we do anyway, and play tenacious defense. We don’t have to change our approach because that’s who we are and this is just another opportunity to show people.”
Payne called Sherrod the “heart and soul” of the program.
“She’s helped us to establish a culture of toughness, of fearlessness, of overcoming any obstacle that’s put in your path,” Payne said. “She is everything you could want in a player. She works hard, she’s an avid listener, avid learner and she wants to be great.
“She’s truly helped us get to where we are today.”
Sophomore Frida Formann called Sherrod the player who keeps the Buffaloes accountable.
“She keeps it at a really high standard,” Formann said. “She is one of those players that can really make you want to go the extra mile. I think that’s what she means to this program. She makes us all work hard.”
Aaronette Vonleh seconded that.
“She wants to win so badly,” Vonleah said. “I think we’re able to feed off of that and match that level of intensity.”
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Sherrod said she has not made a decision about whether she will return for a fifth season. She earned her undergraduate degree in three years and earned her Masters in organizational leadership this year.
She is considering a second Masters degree as well.
“I have a couple of options,” Sherrod said. “I haven’t decided yet.”
Up first: the opportunity she’s been waiting for.
Written by Michelle Smith
Michelle Smith has covered women's basketball nationally for nearly three decades. Smith has worked for ESPN.com, The Athletic, the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as Pac-12.com and WNBA.com. She was named to the Alameda County Women's Hall of Fame in 2015, is the 2017 recipient of the Jake Wade Media Award from the Collegiate Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA) and was named the Mel Greenberg Media Award winner by the WBCA in 2019.