Kansas women’s basketball program lands commitment from local 5-star prospect S’Mya Nichols
photo by: Contributed photo
The Kansas women’s basketball program has picked up a commitment from five-star prospect S’Mya Nichols from nearby Shawnee Mission West High School.
Nichols announced her decision to join the Jayhawks in a video she put out on her social media channels on Tuesday evening.
She picked KU over fellow-finalists Oklahoma and Tennessee.
Her minute-long video spoke of her determination, drive and desire to bring her game and tenacity to Kansas.
“I chose Kansas because every time I was on campus it felt like home,” Nichols said in a KU news release announcing her signing on Wednesday. “I immediately fell in love with the family atmosphere and how serious the coaches and players are about winning. I wanted to join a team that wants to do anything to win while sticking together. Kansas let me take my time and be on my own pace to figure things out and I appreciated that the most.”
The 6-foot guard, who has been one of the top prospects on KU’s recruiting board since she was in eighth grade, is one of the highest-rated players to ever sign with the Jayhawks and by far the highest rated pick up by current KU coach Brandon Schneider and his staff.
Nichols is ranked No. 34 overall in the Class of 2023 by ESPN.
“S’Mya is one of the best players in the country,” said Lawrence High girls coach Jeff Dickson, whose teams have faced Nichols during the past few seasons. “She can literally do it all. She has a crazy-good handle, she is strong and physical and plays intense defense. On top of her physical gifts, she is a fierce competitor, a brilliant student and one of the very best leaders and an extremely good person.”
The versatile wing who can play and guard multiple positions has made several unofficial visits to KU’s campus throughout her high school career. Her official visit came in late September, and, before she arrived, she told the Journal-World that KU making her a priority throughout her career played a big role in her decision.
“They just never stopped recruiting me,” Nichols told the Journal-World in September. “And it just got more exciting and made me feel even more like they really wanted me.”
Around the time of her official visit, former KU basketball player Christian Braun, who also played high school ball in the Kansas City area, sent out a tweet asking for KU fans to show her some love because KU needs to keep the best players in KC close to home.
Nichols said she watched closely last season as Schneider and the Jayhawks made the program’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2013 and reached the second round. That run, along with her connections to the program, made her even more excited about the direction in which the Jayhawks are headed.
“When I saw that, I was absolutely excited,” she told the Journal-World. “It didn’t surprise me, though, because I know the coaching staff they have right now and they’re amazing. So that plays a factor, but either way I was so proud of them and happy for them.”
Nichols’ connection to Kansas goes beyond the college’s campus being close to home.
She played AAU basketball for the Missouri Phenom program that current KU assistant coach Terry Nooner started, and fellow-KU assistant Karyla Middlebrook’s father, Reggie, currently is the club’s director. Karyla played for the Phenom program during her prep days.
The newest KU commitment also helped USA Basketball’s U18 national team win gold at the 2022 FIBA Americas Championships.
Nichols is currently rehabbing an ACL tear in her right knee. She tore her left ACL during her sophomore year but expects to be back playing with the Vikings sometime this December.
After receiving Nichols’ letter of intent on Wednesday, Schneider said KU identified Nichols’ as an up-an-coming star as early as seventh grade.
“It’s hard to describe the impact that S’Mya is going to have on our program in every facet,” he said. “S’Mya is a player who can play four positions offensively and we’ve seen her guard all five positions at a high level. Paired with her elite skill set, her versatility, size, strength and athleticism really stand out when you watch her play.”
Also on Wednesday, the Kansas women’s program announced the signing of another international prospect, 5-foot-10 guard Laia Conesa, who hails from Barcelona, Spain.
Like Nichols, Conesa figures to bring significant versatility to the KU program.
“We signed a small class this year, but I think it’s probably the highest-rated class that our program has signed in a long time,” Schneider said. “We were able to bring in one of the best guards, not only in Spain, but in all of Europe in Laia Conesa, and get S’Mya Nichols, one of the best players in the country, to stay home and be a Jayhawk. The trajectory of Kansas women’s basketball continues to head in a positive direction, and we look forward to adding Laia and S’Mya to our family.”