Given the opportunity to play an extra season of college basketball, Mya Hollingshed had a choice to make this spring.

Leading up to the WNBA draft, Hollingshed was on the radar of pro scouts and it was supposed to be her final year at Colorado anyway.

Ultimately, Hollingshed chose the other option: stay at CU to improve her game, advance in school and play one more year for a program on the rise.

“It feels pretty good,” she said of remaining in Boulder this summer to prepare for another season. “Coming back seemed like a pretty easy decision in the end because I had another year to develop and get the time back that I didn’t really have. … Coming back was the best thing.”

The Buffs are certainly happy to have her back.

A 6-foot-3 forward from Houston, Hollingshed earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors this past season after ranking second in rebounding (7.8 per game), sixth in scoring (15.4) and tied for first in double-doubles (eight).

Although a senior last year, Hollingshed took advantage of the NCAA granting all players an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hollingshed will go into next season as one of the top players in the Pac-12, which is why she appeared on some WNBA mock drafts before deciding to return to school.

“Seeing that stuff kind of made it very surreal for me, because I thought about that type of stuff,” she said. “Actually seeing my name and it really being serious kind of changed my mind a lot about a lot of things. Getting this extra year will help me advance because I can just get an extra year to develop and be able to be ready for the next level. That made it more exciting for me.”

Hollingshed’s scoring and rebounding averages have improved each year at CU and this season she also posted career bests for field goal percentage (45.7), assists (1.65 per game) and blocks (1.13 per game).

“It is kind of crazy seeing how I’ve gotten better each year,” she said. “It was a different situation each year. … I think each year, it helped my confidence in being able to score the ball and just knowing my role. Each year I’m able to add to that, so that I’m better come next season.”

This summer, she is working on her handles so that she’s ready to pass out of double-teams and make better decisions with the ball to help teammates and limit her turnovers.

Last season, Hollingshed turned the corner from being a good player to a star player for the Buffs – although she didn’t view herself that way. It was just all part of being a captain and a leader.

“I didn’t think I was being the star player,” she said. “(Players) picking me as a captain and trusting me to lead them and stuff like that, I think that was the main reason of why I’ve kind of stepped into that (lead) role, just because they are looking for us to lead them. … You can’t win games by yourself.”

That’s part of what excites Hollingshed for next year. The Buffs went 12-11 last season, which is a modest record, but they made a significant jump in the Pac-12, going 8-8. It’s the first time since 2012-13 that CU has finished at least .500 in Pac-12 play. The Buffs were one of only two teams to beat Pac-12 and national champion Stanford (31-2).

With Hollingshed back, the Buffs are projected to return all seven players who started at least nine games. Their top six scorers, and eight of the top nine, are back. On top of that, they have several key newcomers, including a pair of transfers from Washington: guard Tameiya Sadler and center Quay Miller.

For the first time in nearly a decade, the Buffs should go into next season with expectations of being one of the best teams in the Pac-12.

“I am (excited about that),” Hollingshed said, “but then also, I don’t want it to be like … we have to live up to it and it causes extra pressure for no reason. I don’t think that would be an issue, but I’m excited that we’re actually getting some more recognition and stuff like that and we’re getting talked about and people are actually seeing that we can actually play basketball.”

It starts with Hollingshed, who is aiming to do her part in making the Buffs a top team.

“I’m excited about where can go as a team,” she said. “This summer we’ll definitely build our chemistry, being that we have a lot of new pieces added to the depth of our roster. I’m excited to see what they look like and how it comes about.”

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