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The S'Mya Diary - Part VIII

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

6 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 VII, we took a little break from basketball and talked all things Christmas with Nichols.

But now, with that Baylor win under her belt and another individual honor added to her bio, it's time to get back to hoops.

It’s funny how much things can change in as little as a week.

Not long ago, S’Mya Nichols was wrestling with frustration and disappointment of the Jayhawks’ 0-3 start in Big 12 Conference play and trying to keep herself and her teammates as positive as possible while trying to figure out how to get things turned around.

And today, after back-to-back Big 12 wins, including an historic victory over No. 4 Baylor, Nichols is your Big 12 Freshman of the Week — for the second time this season already — and riding high again.

Before we move forward with what’s next for Nichols and the Jayhawks — ultra-tough road games at No. 11 Texas tonight and No. 7 Kansas State this weekend — we wanted to be sure to spend some time reflecting back on how Nichols dealt with that frustration.

Let's jump in.

S'Mya Nichols waits on the bench for her name to be called during player introductions before KU's home win over Oklahoma State last weekend. [Chance Parker photo]

“I mean, it was hard. It was hard on everybody, especially when we were all in the gym constantly trying to figure out what we can bring to the team and what can we fix.”

“The biggest thing for all of us, though, was, of course after the win over Baylor we were proud to wear Jayhawks across our chest, but even with those losses we were still proud.”

Nichols said the mounting losses — first at home to No. 25 West Virginia and then on the road at Iowa State and at Texas Tech — added to the frustration, but also, strangely enough, helped their cause.

“It came to the point where we kind of had nothing to lose and we were able to move forward with that mentality.”

Losing four games in a row, if it had happened, would’ve been a first for Nichols, and that helped her lock in as the Jayhawks prepared to face Baylor last Wednesday night.

“I came in with the idea that this was an aggressive team we were playing so I could be just as aggressive and just try to dominate in something. Of course, we were like, ‘Yes, we’re not trying to lose.’ But we go into every game not trying to lose so it’s not like that was a big switch. We were just really determined.”

As a freshman on a team full of veterans, Nichols knew there was a limit to her role and impact during that rough stretch, so she tried to focus her efforts on one area that she thought would matter a great deal.

“More like, I was just trying to give energy. That’s something that we are lacking sometimes, so giving energy in everything we do so that it feeds over was really important to me. We had great practices and I felt like that fed over into the Baylor game.”

Although Nichols joined her teammates in a euphoric celebration after that win over the Bears, she did not let the joy linger too long. Before she even left Allen Fieldhouse that night, her words pointed to a player who was ready to move on to the next challenge.

“It was a great win, the celebration was the celebration and it was a lot of fun, but we still have to go back to work. Honestly, I’m just excited about the win, and now we’ve got to get ready to play another team.”

That next team was Oklahoma State and Nichols scored a team-high 17 points on 5-of-10 shooting against OSU, just three days after dropping 22 points on Baylor.

Her 19.5 points-per-game average last week, along with 4 rebounds and 2 assists per game, earned her the Big 12 Freshman of the Week honor. She also was named the conference’s top rookie back on Dec. 11.

Next up for Nichols and the Jayhawks (9-7 overall, 2-3 Big 12) is tonight’s showdown with 11th-ranked Texas (16-2 overall, 3-2 Big 12). KU and UT will tip off at 7 p.m. tonight at Moody Center in Austin.

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

• Part VIII - Frustration gives way to history

• Look for Part IX next week, after the Jayhawks' grinder of a road trip against top-12 foes Texas and K-State.

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