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Cobbins groomed to play at Kansas

Familiarity with coach Brandon Schneider's approach made returning to her home state the perfect way to close her career

6 min read
KU forward Ryan Cobbins, a native Kansan who transferred to KU for her final season of college basketball, inside Allen Fieldhouse on KU's media day back in October. [Chance Parker photos]

With a little more than six minutes left in the first half in a game against Kansas State on January 20, Ryan Cobbins inbounded the ball, ran up court and soon after screened for a teammate who shot it from three-point territory.

Cobbins moved into the lane as the missed shot from beyond the arc attracted her defender. She grabbed the rebound and dribbled once to get to the other side of the hoop for a bucket off the glass. 

Less than two minutes later, she set a pick for a teammate on the opposite side of the court, established position by boxing out her defender, got the ball inside and jump stopped before getting another basket off the board. 

In an interview a few days later, Cobbins, who transferred to Kansas from Alabama after last season, said she’s starting to feel comfortable in the Jayhawks offense and that the game against Kansas State was one of her best so far in conference play. 

“I feel like I was assignment-correct on defense, too,” Cobbins told R1S1 Sports. "And then crashing the boards always helps me (begin to) get some momentum — especially getting those offensive ones, it always feels good to get our team an extra possession.” 

Despite the loss, she thinks the team can build on what they’ve been doing. 

“We didn't happen to win that game, but I feel like we still played really well as a collective,” she said. “And we'll get another chance at ‘em, fully equipped.” 

The Jayhawks got the win in their next game versus Iowa State. Cobbins grabbed eight boards against the Cyclones. 

The 6-foot super-senior, who grew up in Kansas City recorded her 1,000th career point and 500th career rebound wearing a Jayhawks jersey in December 2023. But she said she’s only now starting to get over that learning curve involved in thriving on a new team.

An emphasis on making reliable contributions wherever she plays and hooping close to home with a supportive family in her corner during her final college season seem to have eased the transition. 

The Sunflower State connection runs deep for Cobbins.

During her freshman year she played for Kansas native and former KU assistant coach Jory Collins at North Dakota State University. Cobbins can recall seeing Collins in the stands at her high school games when he was actively recruiting one of her teammates. 

“Out of high school, I’ll be honest,” she said, “I probably wasn’t a Power 5-caliber player.” 

So she took her budding talents to Fargo. Cobbins felt comfortable with Collins and his staff at NDSU, and she was exposed to elements of the KU women’s basketball coaching philosophy as a Bison. 

Collins and Kansas coach Brandon Schneider use the same terminology, she said, and Cobbins practiced many of the plays the latter runs now before she ever put on a KU jersey. 

“They’re very similar in a lot of ways — their mannerisms, their personality,” she said. “I would say Jory definitely kind of groomed me to be able to play here at Kansas.” 

After three years playing for Collins, she decided she wanted the Power 5 basketball experience, so she transferred to Alabama to play for coach Kristy Curry in the competitive Southeastern Conference. 

When she entered the transfer portal the first time, en route to Alabama, P5 conference coaches told her that getting the chance to live out her dream of playing at that level was a testimony to the work she put in for three years in the Summit League, learning from Collins and honing her skill set. 

Her game is predicated on fundamentals, and Cobbins says she just tries to do her job on the court. But she considers herself more versatile than she was when Collins was recruiting players for Schneider as an assistant on his staff at KU.  

“I can step out and shoot the 3 now,” Cobbins said. Indeed, she knocked down a 3-point shot in the win over Iowa State on January 24. 

The absence of an outside shot in high school concerned several college coaches who told her greater range would be of help down the road. So she developed a jumper from distance, and did so without sacrificing a willingness to battle with bigs on the block. 

“I'm obviously not the tallest, but I will get down there and be physical with you,” she explained. 

Cobbins shot her highest percentage from the field and also from the charity stripe while contributing to the Crimson Tide’s above-.500 season. 

“I had a good year there but just decided for my last year of college basketball I wanted to be closer to home and be able to see my family in the stands every game,” she said. 

Cobbins entered the portal again, and was transported back to the Sunflower state, where she spent her formative years with friends and family. 

Her family traveled to watch Cobbins play whenever possible, whether that involved a trip to Fargo or to Tuscaloosa, but now it’s less than an hour’s drive for the people closest to her to attend games at Allen Fieldhouse. 

In addition to exposing her to athletics and normalizing participation in sports, family provides a constant presence in her life that parallels her penchant for reliability on the hardwood.  

Cobbins has two older siblings, a brother and a sister, who both played college basketball. As a kid, she ran track, competed on the volleyball court and also, like her father, played baseball. 

“My name is Ryan, so I guess the league thought that I was a boy when I signed up,” she said. “My dad kept me in it and (that) just brought a competitive drive out of me.” 

Family continues to hold her down and lift her up. 

“Having those solid people in your corner and to be able to see them in the stands every game is just so meaningful to me,” Cobbins said. 

She felt it “would be special” to play with them nearby — and with her home state on her chest.

Although she can hold it down in the backcourt and in the frontcourt, in the KU system Cobbins typically takes on the responsibilities of a forward. She is quick to qualify that Schneider has a free-flowing offense, and Cobbins is willing to assume whatever role necessary to help her squad. 

“He puts me down (at) the 5 sometimes if other teams go to a smaller lineup, and I don't mind doing that, because like I said, I'm willing to be physical and rebound the ball,” she said. “Pretty much, if you put me somewhere, I'll be more than willing to play the position if that's what puts our team in the best position to win.” 

Cobbins, who is most often used as the first player off the bench, has averaged more than 20 minutes per game for the Jayhawks, said that if the Jayhawks keep playing the way they did against Kansas State and Iowa State, they “have a really good chance to be able to do something special” in both the Big 12 and the NCAA Tournament come March. 

For the remainder of her final season, as she finishes her college career playing for the premiere program in the state she calls home, she’s focused on contributing consistency.

“I feel like when you're this late in your career, you kind of are who you are,” Cobbins said. “I mean, you can get in the gym and stuff and still work out and be a great teammate. But yeah, (I’m) just finding a way to be consistent everyday, whatever that looks like. Whether that's me being a vocal leader or trying to help one of the underclassmen or making the plays that I know that I'm capable of making, the biggest thing for me right now is probably just being consistent throughout the rest of the season.” 

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