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No. 3 Colorado follows lead of high-energy point guard Jaylyn Sherrod to best start since 1992-93

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Colorado point guard Jaylyn Sherrod constantly operates at a go, go, go level. That’s just her nature.

It applies in the classroom, where she’s completing a second master’s degree. At her internship, working with the Boulder Police Department. Even with her hobbies, whether it's reading book after book or snapping together Lego after Lego to build masterpieces.

Sherrod's nonstop energy is obvious on the court, where the sparkplug for third-ranked Colorado (15-1, 5-0 Pac-12) plays with a chip on her shoulder and a passion to match. She’s the catalyst for a Buffaloes team that's off to its best start since 1992-93. They've adopted an underdog mentality — much like their spunky 5-foot-7 fifth-year senior.

"We’re always underdogs in our head. Nobody can tell us any different,” said Sherrod, whose team hosts No. 5 UCLA (14-1, 3-1) on Friday night in the first matchup between top-five teams in Colorado women's program history. “Success isn’t going to change our foundation or change our dynamic. We’re still that team that gets after you, that plays with a high energy.”

Sherrod paves the way. She's far less concerned about her stats (13.8 points, 5.6 assists) and more focused on being the league leader in hustle.

“If I’m not the most energetic, most passionate player on the floor, I’m not doing my job,” said Sherrod, whose team turns around and hosts No. 6 Southern Cal (13-1, 3-1) on Sunday. “I know that in terms of energy, the team goes as I go.”

Hence, the bumps and bruises from all the tumbles she takes to the floor.

Hence, the pumping up the crowd at every opportunity.

Hence, the hand gestures, one of which she wants to set the record straight on. She meant no disrespect to No. 8 Stanford when she put her hands to her face to imitate Stephen Curry's “night, night” pose after making a game-clinching layup Sunday. Heat of the moment, she explained, a gesture to fulfill a promise to a teammate.

“It made for more than what it really was,” said Sherrod, who counts reading and Legos as two of her hobbies to help her unwind (she recently assembled a Taj Mahal replica).

This sort of season for Colorado means all the more to Sherrod given her path to Boulder.

Coming out of Birmingham, Alabama, the only offer from a Power-Five school Sherrod received was from coach JR Payne. The Buffaloes weren't really even in the market for a smaller point guard, either.

But Payne gave former Colorado assistant coach Shandrika Lee the green light to recommend anyone she saw who played with the gritty attitude that Lee demonstrated during her playing days at Pepperdine. Lee's tenacity as a smaller guard has always impressed Payne.

Sherrod checked those same sort of boxes.

“I just discovered really quickly that she was obviously extremely athletic, but it was her will and mindset and toughness that ultimately made us want her to come play here,” said Payne, whose team advanced to the Sweet 16 last season for the first time since 2003.

Sherrod missed most of her sophomore season as she recovered from hip surgery. But she still found a way to elevate her game by parking herself on the bench close to Payne and just observing her coach. It was a way to see the game through the eyes of Payne. They also studied game film together.

That helped set the foundation for Sherrod becoming just one of four Colorado players to record 1,000 or more career points and 500-plus assists. In addition, she was recently announced as one of the 25 players on the Wooden Award midseason watch list.

For her drive, she credits, in part, not being highly recruited. She wasn't bitter, but used it to make her better.

“At a young age, you get caught up in the five stars and four stars and who's getting offers," Sherrod said. "I was never like, ‘Oh, that should've been me.’ I was like, ‘All right, cool, congratulations. But if I see you again, I’ve got to prove it to you.' I just knew deep down I was going to win.”

Sherrod's a classroom standout, too, earning her bachelor's degree in three years and then a master's degree in organizational leadership. Now, she's in the middle of another master's degree in criminal justice, which is why she's shadowing Boulder detectives and working with forensics.

Crime analysis may be a career she explores later on. That is, after what she hopes is a long career in the WNBA and one in coaching.

A word of advice from Payne on coaching: Don’t expect every player to have that same energy as Sherrod. They're not easy to find.

“She’ll be an incredible coach,” Payne said. "It will be really cool to follow that journey with her.”

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AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball