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The S'Mya Diary - Part V

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 V, we caught up with Nichols to get her feedback on the team’s recent trip to the Cayman Islands, where they played both Virginia Tech and UConn tough and down to the wire.

“The trip was amazing. I mean, we did come home with two Ls but we learned so much from the trip. We learned what pace we would like to play at, how aggressive we’d like to be and how important our possessions are.”

“We definitely were a lot more disciplined on defense after playing those top teams. And now we don’t want to drop that expectation. We definitely took a lot more pride in our defense and I think the trip helped us a lot.”

That concept showed up in the Jayhawks’ first home game after the trip, a 67-56 win over Southeastern Louisiana at Allen Fieldhouse.

On just about every possession, the Jayhawks’ defensive intensity was elevated, with players talking more, pushing harder and doing their best to make the Lions uncomfortable all over the floor.

Part of that was the result of the lingering frustration from not being able to close out either game against Virginia Tech or UConn.

“We were still mad when we got on the plane to come home because we were so close. You get to thinking about what one extra play could’ve meant, what one missed free throw meant. I guess we came home a lot more hungry and eager to learn how to finish games like that because we know now that we can hang in games like that.”

“Those games came down to little details and our opponents were better than us when it came to those little details.”

For the better part of the past three decades, UConn has been the gold standard of women’s college basketball. Nichols grew up watching the Huskies and entered the game well aware of head coach Geno Auriemma’s record and the run UConn has been on. But that was the last thing on her mind when the ball was tipped off and the game was under way.

“To be honest, I didn’t care. I mean, I just had an expectation that we were gonna win and I didn’t care much at all who we were playing.”

Nichols, who chose KU over finalists Tennessee and Oklahoma, said she was not recruited by Connecticut and that did not play any role in the matchup.

“No. Not heavily. Obviously, when you’re younger you get all the letters and stuff, but nothing more than that. But that didn't matter to me."

Nichols was one of four Jayhawks to score in double figures in the 71-63 loss, and her seven fouls drawn were the most in the game by either team. She shot 4-of-12 from the floor, 1-of-4 from 3-point range and 5-of-6 at the free throw line. While those were good individual numbers — Nichols dropped in a new career-high 20 points earlier this week in a home win over Houston Christian — the KU freshman said her own performance did nothing to change the vibe after the game.

“I mean, it was silence. It was very silent in the locker room and all we kept saying was we were so close.”

The trip to the Cayman Islands was not all basketball all the time and Nichols said she enjoyed the brief taste of paradise the team got on the trip.

“It wasn’t that long. We probably had like four hours to spare and do whatever we want the first day we got there, but we also had to take into consideration that we had practice. So, we were outside for like an hour. It was fun, though. There were no waves there.”

With just three games remaining before the start of her first jump into Big 12 play, Nichols and the Jayhawks are looking to find a little momentum that they can take with them into the conference run.

Next up, Kansas plays at Wichita State at 1 p.m. Sunday. After that, it’s a pair of home games next week — vs. Central Arkansas on Dec. 16 and Nebraska on Dec. 20 — before opening Big 12 play at home against West Virginia on Dec. 30.

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

• Look for Part VI next week, when the Jayhawks close out their non-conference schedule.

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