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The S'Mya Diary - Part VII

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 after her breakout week, which featured back-to-back career-highs of 20 and 23 points.

And so far this season, we’ve learned a lot about S’Mya Nichols the basketball player — her thoughts about competing, her emotions of all the firsts that have come her way thus far, her highs and lows, her highlights and the love she has for her team.

For Part VII of The S’Mya Diary, though, we decided to take a little break from the basketball and dive into S’Mya Nichols the person.

Specifically, we found out how Nichols feels about Christmas. In a word, jolly.

Here’s a look.

“I like how everyone’s happy around Christmas and there’s a happy vibe. Everyone’s in such a giving mood and they’re so generous. You tip more, you buy gifts for people who are less fortunate; I just love Christmas because of the vibe and happiness.”

Nichols said Christmas, which she spent this year back home with her family, is her favorite holiday, “but not for the gifts, just the Christmas spirit.”

In fact, Nichols has reached the point where she likes giving gifts more than getting them.

After the Jayhawks’ final game before Christmas — a 69-52 home win over Nebraska — Nichols gave each of her teammates a gift bag of body butter and homemade pound cake, courtesy of her older sister Tyra Cole.

And on the Saturday before Christmas, back home in Overland Park, she gave her parents a camouflage ATV.

“That’s probably my favorite gift I’ve ever given. Being in college, I’m just not around my family 24/7 so I kind of miss them and their spirit and just being in the house this time of the year. But I still love it. I feel a lot more independent and I’m able to get gifts for everyone else.”

There have been a few memorable gifts she was on the receiving end of, too.

“I was like 3 or 4 years old and that’s when the (Nintendo) Wii came out and there’s this video of me screaming and running around the house yelling, ‘Oh my God, I got a Wii, I got a Wii.’”

Bowling, tennis and, of course, basketball were her favorite Wii games.

As for her favorite Christmas song?

“Anything Mariah Carey.”

That means the smash hit, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” — love it or hate it — played on a loop during the recent holiday season around Nichols’ dorm room and childhood home.

As for the 7-5 Jayhawks, who opened Big 12 Conference play with a tough home loss to West Virginia last weekend, Nichols said they hosted a “Secret Santa” exchange after break and that she had a fun idea for an on-court gift she would deliver.

“Probably, a whole bunch of charges taken. Charges represent you being in the right space to help your teammates and not only did you help them but you also turned the other team over.”

While her basketball IQ always has been one of her top traits, Nichols said she learned a lot during the non-conference portion of KU’s schedule.

“College basketball is faster, for one – just a faster pace. It’s also very physical, which I like. And I learned that I can keep up. Like, I blend in. I don’t look like a freshman constantly. Now, I mess up. But I don’t mess up constantly.”

After that win over Nebraska, KU coach Brandon Schneider said Nichols had been KU’s best all-around player up to that point and her teammates have been impressed by how easily she has adjusted and fit in to the college game.

“I think it’s cool to hear that, but I really don’t think too much about it. I think all my teammates are really good in their own way and I think that I help them stand out whenever I can.”

“My confidence is high right now and I feel like out of all the teams we’ve had the hardest non-conference schedule and I feel like we’ve challenged ourselves with the top tier. Because of that, we know we’re able bounce back since we’ve already been through so much already.”

Nichols and the Jayhawks will look to do just that tonight in Ames, Iowa against Iowa State (8-4, 1-0). The Cyclones defeated Oklahoma State in their Big 12 opener.

Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. on ESPN+.

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

• Look for Part VIII next week, when we'll get reaction to Nichols' first three games against Big 12 competition.

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