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The S'Mya Diary - Part I

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

5 min read
Kansas freshman S'Mya Nichols at KU basketball media day. [Chance Parker photo]

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.

But she’s not worried about doing that by herself or making sure the spotlight is shining on her at all times.

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.

Instagram: @smyak12 | Twitter/X: @SmyaKNichols

By all accounts, Nichols a great teammate, a terrific talent, as versatile as they come and the perfect embodiment of where this program is headed.

So, 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.

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. 

Before the ball gets tipped on Nov. 8, there was work to be done in the way of representing the Jayhawks and providing an outlook for the upcoming season to reporters who came out to cover this KU women’s team at KU’s media day last week.

“I thought it was cool. It was definitely a surreal feeling and it made me like think back to A’Ja Wilson and the Las Vegas Aces and how they’re just up there being asked a million questions and they’re just being themselves. That’s honestly the vibe I got. It was just fun.”

Wilson and the Aces recently won the WNBA title, with the 27-year-old South Carolina graduate being named Finals MVP.

Wilson is widely regarded as one of the best players in the world and, not too long ago, she was in Nichols’ shoes as a college freshman just starting out. Nichols, who came to KU from nearby Shawnee Mission West High School, remembers her first time in the spotlight.

“My first interview was probably my freshman year of high school. It was in-person, it was for an article and we also had the Sunflower Smack Show that we talked to continuously.”

The Sunflower Smack Show is a Twitter account that covers Sunflower League high school girls basketball through video, tweets and online interviews and write-ups. The account, which was founded in December of 2018, has more than 3,200 followers.

“I used to be timid because I didn’t know what to say or I’d be scared if I didn’t have an answer to a question but, as I grew up, I learned to just be yourself and it’ll come to you. The more you do it the easier it gets.”

Nichols said she’d give herself “a B+ or A-” for her first time representing the program at KU media day, even if she was not quite sure what she was getting into.

“At first I didn’t know what it was. I was just like, ‘OK, it’s another interview.’ And then I walked in and I was like, ‘Oh. There are a lot of people in here and now we have to talk in the front of the room to everybody.”

The KU freshman said she felt no nerves but noted that the intensity of the overhead lights aimed at the podium created a new feeling.

“I was just hot. But I thought it was cool. I was blessed for the opportunity and to be chosen with WyWy (KU teammate Wyvette Mayberry). I didn’t think too much of it. I was just like let’s go do it and have some fun.”

An already gifted basketball player capable of playing four positions and carrying a heavy load, Nichols plans to spend her freshman season learning from her veteran KU teammates, especially Zakiyah Franklin, who they call KB, Taiyanna Jackson, who they call Twin, and Holly Kersgieter. Those lessons extend beyond where to be and how to operate on the court during a college game.

“Them being themselves is a big thing. KB is a low-key person, very chill and that’s her and she doesn’t change it for the lights. Twin, she’s our goofy person, she’s energy, she’s also shy in front of the lights sometimes. And then there’s Holly. I think Holly has a switch for being energetic and also chill. I can tell the differences, but I like how they’re always themselves.”

“I probably would’ve never changed if someone didn’t tell me to be myself. I probably still would’ve just been me, and I really like how this whole team is that way.”

She also really likes where the team sits entering the season and believes that the big goals that the KU women’s team has are every bit as realistic as the goals held by the KU men, who shared the media day spotlight with Nichols and her team.

“I think of this team like we’re just as good as any top team that’s ranked right now and we’re just all excited for the season.”

The KU women open the 2023-24 season on Nov. 8 at 6:30 p.m. against Northwestern State at Allen Fieldhouse.

From there, they’ll travel to Penn State to take on the Nittany Lions and then to the Cayman Islands where they'll square off with powerhouse programs UConn and Virginia Tech in paradise. UConn is ranked No. 2 in the AP preseason Top 25 and Va Tech sits at No. 8. Kansas is the third highest of 15 teams receiving votes just outside of the Top 25.

Kansas freshman S'Mya Nichols pictured inside Allen Fieldhouse her new basketball home. [Chance Parker photo]

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