The history of the Cal Poly Pomona women’s basketball program includes a long and storied tradition. Despite a laundry list of changes in recent months, the Broncos (20-4) are poised to take a run at the program’s sixth NCAA championship.
At this time last year, it was the Broncos men’s basketball program that was the focus of the hardwood world. Following a heartbreaking overtime loss to Findlay in the 2009 NCAA title game, Cal Poly Pomona captured the program’s first men’s basketball championship in March of 2010. During the offseason, the school’s Kellogg Gym underwent a major renovation.
“We completely re-did the floor,” said Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Brian Swanson. “We took it down to the cement over the summer. That gym is used for kinesiology, athletics and intramurals and lots of other things, so it was in bad shape. We were repairing it as we went through last season and were fortunate to have the support to get it replaced.
“After academic classes finished at the start of June, we painted, then started on the floor in the first part of July. We weren’t able to get back on the floor until the first day of team practices, October 15.”
As the floor renovation project started, third-year head coach Scott Davis resigned his position, leaving Swanson to open a search for a new head women’s basketball coach. Filling the gap until a new head coach is named is current interim head coach Danielle Bishop.
Cal Poly Pomona women’s basketball, a program with five NCAA Championships to its credit (1982, ’85, ’86, ’01, ’02), made its first NCAA Tournament appearance in five seasons last year. Bishop has not allowed the Broncos, currently 20-4 (17-3 California Collegiate Athletic Association) to skip a beat. Both Swanson and Bishop point to senior guard and Player of the Year candidate Reyana Colson as the critical reason for the Broncos continued success.
“Reyana is just a true leader,” said Bishop. “She is out there doing everything and I think her statistics prove that. She’s not only out there scoring, she’s rebounding. She’s our second-leading rebounder on the team and top-10 in the conference and to have a 5-foot-6-inch player doing that I think is just stellar. She’s probably one of our best defenders on the team and I think that gives a lot of credit to her for how badly she wants her team to be successful as well.”
“We’re fortunate that we’ve had a four-year starter in Reyana Colson who is having an outstanding year,” said Swanson. “[Weathering a coaching] change at that time of year is a little unsettling, but again I think our senior leadership has really been evident this year in the way that the team has played.”
Colson is simply focused on putting her best effort into her final season of college basketball.
“I’m a senior this year,” said Colson, “and this is my last opportunity to play college basketball. I just want to make the best out of this year especially with having a new coach and just a lot of changes. This year we had a lot of ups and downs from the start but I think we’ve been able to just make the best out of the opportunity. Personally I knew that this year I had to just be a leader on and off the floor and I think I’ve done a good job of doing that.”
Bishop knew Colson would be the key well before the first practice.
“I talked to all of the girls when I first got the job,” said Bishop. “I’d guess 75-85 percent of the girls all recognized Reyana, so before I even met Reyana I felt like she’s not only such a good player but she’s a good person. She’s really humble and doesn’t ever talk about her accolades but all of [her teammates] recognized her and said how hard they wanted to work this year because it’s Rey’s senior year and we want her to go out basically with a bang. So I think that’s a compliment to Reyana and what her work ethic is but also her leadership on and off the court.”
Colson’s list of accolades during her final collegiate season is impressive and continues to grow. She is a three-time CCAA Player of the Week honoree, and was selected to the Capital One Academic All-District First Team for the third time in her career earlier this month. An accounting major from Compton, Calif., Colson holds a cumulative 3.68 grade point average and is now eligible for national Academic All-America honors.
On the court, she leads the CCAA and ranks third in the country in points per game with 21.0 (through games of Feb. 20), 22nd in steals per game with a CCAA-leading 3.0 and is just outside the top-50 in assists per game (4.5).
The Broncos have just two home games remaining on the regular season schedule, playing Thursday and Friday at Kellogg Gym against UC San Diego and Cal State East Bay prior to CCAA Tournament play beginning March 1. With losses in its last two CCAA games, Cal Poly Pomona stands a game behind Cal State Monterey Bay in the CCAA standings, but Colson still has her eye on the prize.
“Last year,” said Colson, “we made it to the NCAA Tournament but we lost in the first round. Our guys went on and won the national championship. Being a student-athlete and knowing the players personally, you envy their position but at the same time you’re happy for them. I think coming into this year we wanted to mimic their success. We’re hoping to do the same. Go as far as we can in the postseason and hopefully bring home a national championship as well.”