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The S'Mya Diary - Part III

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 upcoming 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 III, we take a look at the first official game of Nichols’ career, which featured a KU win on Nov. 8 and a moment she won’t soon forget.

“I was so nervous all day. That went away sometime during the second quarter.”

Enough to make an in-game gaffe seem more laughable than devastating. Midway through the second quarter, after KU center Taiyanna Jackson blocked a shot down low, Nichols, who had her back to the play, grabbed the bouncing ball, stepped out of bounds underneath the basket and inbounded the ball to a teammate.

“I thought it went in. That was so funny. I thought it was perfect. I thought it was a perfect freshman moment. I was like, ‘This is perfect. I’ll remember this forever. I can’t believe I did this but that’s what happened.’ My head was moving pretty fast.”

Play resumed for nearly a minute of game time, including a KU basket, before the opposing head coach alerted officials about what had happened. Play was stopped while the referees tried to figure out what to do. All the while, Nichols was on the floor and near the KU bench, laughing with her teammates and explaining to them how it was no big deal, with the following thoughts going through her head and even crossing her lips.

“See guys? It’s fine. They gave us the points anyway.”

KU freshman S'Mya Nichols looks to make a pass along the baseline during the Jayhawks' season opener on Nov. 8, 2023 at Allen Fieldhouse. [Chance Parker photo]

As it turned out, the officials deemed that there was nothing they could do and play resumed from there. It hardly mattered, as Kansas rolled Northwestern State, 88-46, for Nichols’ first win as a Jayhawk.

Nichols finished with 7 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds and a steal in her KU debut, modest numbers to be sure, but production that was more or less by design on a night when she even played some point guard when Wyvette Mayberry was on the bench.

“I’m comfortable playing point guard. I feel like I can handle a lot of roles, so I just do whatever coach tells me to do.”

“I was like just keep going. I was thinking right now that I need to be more of an assister of the game and I’m comfortable with that. So that was my main focus – pass to the open person, try not to turn it over and play defense.”

With that said, Nichols does remember her first official KU basket.

“It was a 3. It felt good. I didn’t really think too much about it. I didn’t care if I air-balled. But it looked good. I was like, ‘OK, I’m good now.’ … I can shoot. I probably don’t shoot a lot, but I just happened to be open for 3 so I shot it.”

While her nerves were with her throughout most of the day leading up to the opener, the moment started to feel real when she heard her name called during starting lineup introductions, during which hers was the first KU name to be called.

“For one, I didn’t know I was first, so I was like, ‘OK.’ But that’s when it really hit that the season’s started. Now I’m playing college basketball. This should be fun. Go win. Things like that.”

“My favorite part of the whole night was probably whenever my teammates got a block or did something good and we were all hype together. Yeah, definitely that. Or, like, the hustle plays we had, diving on the ground. Those are my favorite.”

She also didn’t mind when it was all over. There’s a lot of anxiety and anticipation that goes into your first game ever and Nichols left Allen Fieldhouse that night happy to now have that behind her.

“That’s exactly how I felt, I got this one out of the way and now it’s on to the next one.”

The Jayhawks lost at Penn State in their next outing to fall to 1-1 on the season and will return to play on Saturday at Kansas City at 3:30 p.m. at Municipal Auditorium.

After that, it’s off to the Cayman Island next week to take on perennial powerhouse programs Virginia Tech and UConn on Friday, Nov. 24 and Saturday, Nov. 25.

Those games can be streamed live via FloSports.

KU will take on No. 9 Virginia Tech at 4 p.m. and No. 8 Connecticut at 6:30 p.m. a day later.

KU freshman S'Mya Nichols high-fives teammate Taiyanna Jackson during the Jayhawks' season opener on Nov. 8, 2023 at Allen Fieldhouse. [Chance Parker photo]

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

• Look for Part IV next week, before the Jayhawks head off to paradise

— For tickets to all KU athletic events, visit