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The S'Mya Diary - Part IV

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

4 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 IV, we take a look at Nichols’ first experience with life on the road with the Jayhawks.

After opening the season with a convincing home win and a ton of smiles, Nichols and the Jayhawks traveled to University Park, Pennsylvania to take on Power 5 foe Penn State in a game they had been looking forward to for a while.

The experience of traveling there was nothing new for Nichols.

“The planes are chartered, but in AAU we rode on private planes anyway.”

The experience of losing, however, was a Kansas first. Penn State topped the Jayhawks, 91-85, but Nichols said she learned a valuable lesson about what it takes to win on the road at this level during that loss.

“Consistency and staying engaged and continuing to have energy and bring good energy on both sides of the floor. Basically, just don’t get too comfortable.”

There was nothing comfortable about the frustration that game following that loss, which came five days before the Jayhawks (2-1) got back on the winning track with a win on a much shorter road trip — 70-61 at Kansas City.

“The loss to Penn State stuck with us for a couple days after, but, I mean, it’s always next-play mentality when we’re in a game so it’s going to have to be next-game mentality when something doesn’t go our way.”

Next game in this case means back-to-back battles with top-10 foes Virginia Tech and UConn in the Cayman Islands, starting at 4 p.m. today against No. 9 Va-Tech. The Jayhawks will take on Connecticut at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

“I’m just really excited and my teammates and I are all riled up and excited to go in as the underdogs and make a name for ourselves. We just want to compete hard and make a statement that it’s not easy playing us.”

Those very words, about being viewed as the underdog, were a popular topic with Nichols and roommate Wyvette Mayberry before the Jayhawks left for the Cayman Islands on Tuesday.

“We were just talking, saying, ‘If this is how they feel about us then we have nothing to lose.’ So, we can’t go in there with pressure because everyone thinks we’re going to lose and we have nothing to lose.”

Naturally, Nichols is looking forward to testing herself against two of the best programs in women’s college basketball, including one, in UConn, that has been the gold standard in the game for the past couple of decades. But Nichols is also excited for her veteran teammates like Holly Kersgieter, Taiyanna Jackson and Zakiyah Franklin to get that same chance.

“I’m very excited for them, especially now that they have the opportunity to put themselves against what everyone else thinks is the best. They get to finally showcase their ability and what I see every day at practice. And I’m more than confident that they’ll do great against these teams because they work so hard every day and they’re the most consistent people that I’ve watched and they compete.”

KU’s next two games can be streamed live on FloSports.

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

• Look for Part V next week, after the Jayhawks return from paradise

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