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The S'Mya Diary - Part VI

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 VI, we caught up with Nichols to get her thoughts on her recent breakout week, which featured back-to-back career-highs of 20 and 23 points, a weekly award and an uptick in media interest.

First, the career-highs. Nichols scored 20 points in a win over Houston Christian and followed that up with a 23-point outing in a road win at Wichita State.

Neither time was she looking to score.

“I just don’t think that way. Ever. I just go play. That’s kind of how I feel every single time and whatever happens happens. As long as we win, that’s great.”

Nichols said picking her spots and taking what the defense gave her were huge factors in both 20-point nights.

“I remember it being a slow start, just for the whole team (against Houston Christian). We had to pick it up on defense and I was just really patient, taking my time so we could win.”

“I didn’t know (I had 23 points against WSU), but I wasn’t surprised because the defense that they played was really close and I love close defenses because you can just go right past them.”

So far, more of Nichols’ points than expected have come from behind the 3-point arc (she’s shooting 44.4% on 12 makes in 27 attempts) and that, she says, is a product of the way teams are defending her and Kansas.

“Especially with our starting lineup, how I’m playing the 4. Normally 4s guard 4s, so they’re automatically expecting me to be just a driver. Which, I can drive. But it’s kind of like forcing me to take the shots and they’re going in, so it’s working.”

KU freshman S'Mya Nichols pulls up for a jumper at the free throw line against Houston Christian. [Chance Parker photo]

As for what she looks to first as an indicator of how well she played offensively, Nichols said… “My assist numbers. Probably that. Hitting my open teammates and getting them going.”

Does she set any statistical goals before games?

“No, but I should. I need to be a better rebounder. Rebounding’s hard.”

Nichols is currently averaging 2.4 boards per game, good for fifth on the team and just a couple of ticks from falling to eighth.

While 23 marks her current college career-high, Nichols’ all-time career-high is slightly higher. How much exactly, however, is a mystery even to her.

“I think it’s 30—1… It’s 30-something.”

That came during her junior season at Shawnee Mission West and she’s eager to top it during her KU career.

The Freshman of the Week honor added fuel to her desire to do that, sooner or later.

“I was excited. I used to see Freshman of the Week awards last year for all my friends in the Big 12, so I was just like, ‘This is so cool.’ I had a whole bunch of people text me congratulations and I was like, ‘For what?’”

The messages kept coming all day. But those first 5 or so came all at once.

“I feel like I’ll always remember the first one, honestly. But I think it’s cool knowing that I have an opportunity to rack up more.”

KU freshman S'Mya Nichols under the bright lights of Late Night. [Chance Parker photo]

The past week was finals week at KU and that gave Nichols her first taste of what final exams are all about in college. She had just one this semester, on Wednesday in Sociology.

“It was hard. But I did fine, probably. I passed, I know that. I was with my tutor most of the time and we were just going over the book and concepts and stuff like that. There was not much anxiety, though, because I knew my grade was already high enough.”

Nichols’ big week also led to her appearing on Brandon Schneider’s mid-week Hawk Talk radio show and doing an interview with Big 12 Radio on Sirius XM.

“I mean, I’m honored to do it. It’s fun. I talk about my teammates most of the time. I always give them the answer about me, but I like to talk about my teammates even more.”

That’s a good indication that Nichols’ current thoughts about where this Kansas team stands are right on the money. KU enters this weekend at 5-4 overall and with two non-conference games remaining before opening Big 12 play on Dec. 30 vs. West Virginia.

“We’re in a stretch of like four straight practices and that’s our longest in a while, so I think that was good for us. We’ve been competing against each other, as well.”

“Right now, we are learning to be tough, to be connected and I feel like we’ve made a huge improvement already, especially when we’re not playing as well and just bouncing back. So, I think we’re in a good place. We can always get better, though.”

KU plays host to Central Arkansas at 4 p.m. Saturday and will host Nebraska at 6:30 p.m. next Wednesday before WVU comes to town.

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

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

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