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The S'Mya Diary - Part X

My freshman year with the Jayhawks, by S'Mya Nichols

5 min read

She’s one of the most highly recruited Jayhawks in KU women’s basketball history and her goals and expectations for her career, this season and this team are sky high.

She also happens to be a native Kansan who joined Brandon Schneider’s program to help take KU women’s basketball to another level.

Join us as we chronicle Year 1 of the S’Mya Nichols era at Kansas and look for new editions of The S’Mya Diary each week throughout the 2023-24 season.

The S'Mya File

Age: 19 | Height: 6-0 | Position: Guard

High School: Shawnee Mission West | AAU: Missouri Phenom

Notable: One of six sisters in her family, Nichols was the nation's No. 5-ranked prospect at her position and rated No. 22 overall in the Class of 2023 by Collegiate Girls Basketball Report... She was one of 50 players on the Naismith Girls High School Player of the Year Award watch list and a McDonald's All-America nominee, and she was a member of the 2022 Team USA U18 National Team, which won a gold medal at the FIBA U18 Americas Championship... Scored more than 1,000 points in her prep career while earning several all-state and all-league honors... Committed to Kansas in October 2022, choosing KU over Tennessee, Arizona Oklahoma, Missouri and many others.

We started this, unofficially, with Nichols sharing her thoughts about her first ever Late Night in the Phog. And she has agreed to provide R1S1 Sports with an insider’s look at her first season as a Jayhawk. 

In Part IX, we took a look at what Nichols had learned about the Big 12 Conference by playing in it. After years of coming over to Lawrence to watch the Jayhawks play, she said she has encountered a lot of what she expected so far this season.

Nichols entered Wednesday leading the Jayhawks in scoring (14 points per game), assists (68) and steals (33).

On Wednesday night, she led the Jayhawks with 23 points in a 69-61 loss at No. 24 Baylor. After trailing by 9 at the half, the Jayhawks cut the Baylor lead to two on a few occasions in the third quarter and even had a couple of 3-point attempts that would've given them the lead.

Nichols was a huge part of that run. She scored 13 of her game-high 23 points in that third quarter and abused the Bears from inside and out.

In this edition of The S’Mya Diary, we’ll dive a little deeper into what Nichols has learned this season and find out how she has adjusted to the different ways conference foes have tried to defend her.

“It’s mostly man. It just depends on if I’m getting to the rim easier than I should be.”

That hasn’t been the case all season. Even though she entered college with an impressive reputation, it took a little while for Big 12 teams to make her a focal point.

“In the beginning of the year, when I started off at the 4, normally the other 4 would guard me. But, it’s changed. Now, their best defender normally guards me.”

Nichols said she has not seen many double teams, traps or switched assignments. For the most part, the player who started out on her to open the game has stayed on her throughout.

“It’s normally the same one; that’s how I know it’s probably a scouting report thing.”

The Jayhawks and head coach Brandon Schneider, however, don’t really address who will or won’t be guarding Nichols in their scout sessions.


“Because I don’t think that he thinks it matters.”

Nichols is not cocky. But she is confident. And she knows that her coach doesn’t need to remind her that she might see the next opponent’s best defender because (a) she expects that now, and (b) Schneider and her teammates expect her to continue to have success anyway.

“We always watch film on their defense, just to see how they play defense. But, there’s usually a different scouting report for every team so they might change it up when they play us.”

Despite her 46% shooting overall, which includes a 38% clip from 3-point range, Nichols has a theory for why she hasn’t seen many double teams.

“I feel like in college, everyone’s good on the court, so they don’t want to take the risk to double because they know then that I’ll have a teammate open who’s just as good.”

It doesn’t hurt that Nichols shoots 80.6% at the free throw line, which makes fouling her one of the worst ways to try to stop her.

She doesn’t consider herself a 3-point shooter necessarily but she is not afraid to fire away from the outside when that’s what a particular situation requires.

That ability to adjust to what she sees has proven to be a great strength of hers early on in her college career.

That, she said, plays into her basketball IQ, which has been her weapon of choice for how to attack the way teams guard her.

“Probably just being smart, slowing down in my head and just trying to figure out what’s the next thing that I can do. “It’s just sagged off, pack the paint; that’s mostly how it is. But if they’re going to pack the paint, then it’s about time to shoot.”

Nichols' understanding of how and where to attack her opponents was on full display during Wednesday's road loss at Baylor.

At times, she looked nearly unguardable, driving when the Bears were on their heels, taking the open jumpers when they were there and knocking down all 10 of her free throw attempts.

Now, she'll look to replicate that on Sunday in a home clash with No. 10 Kansas State. Tipoff is slated for 1 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse.

Check out past entries of The S'Mya Diary...

• Part I - My first KU media day

• Part II - The lull before the start of the season

• Part III - A look back at my KU debut

• Part IV - Life on the road

• Part V - Disappointment in paradise

• Part VI - Not 1 but 2 career-high outings

• Part VII - Have a holly jolly Christmas

• Part VIII - Frustration gives way to history

• Part IX - Breaking down the Big 12

• Look for Part XI next week, as Nichols and the Jayhawks head into the homestretch of the season and start to look ahead to postseason play.

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