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Baylor Women's Basketball

Athlete Plus: Aijha Blackwell (WBB)

June 1, 2022
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Ashley Hodge:
This is Ashley Hodge with Sicem365 Athletes Plus interview and I'm pleased to be joined by Aijha Blackwell. And I pronounced your name right, right?  Aijha is a great college basketball player, you had a storied career at Missouri, one of the best players in the nation. Now you've transferred to Baylor and you're going to spend your next year at Baylor. This is a good chance for fans to get to know you first of all, so thank you for taking time to do this. We really appreciate you doing this.

I sent you some questions ahead of time that I want to just start by asking and then we'll just play off some of those questions. So the number one question that fans had put on our message board is they wanted to ask you is why did you choose Baylor?  We know that you  seem to have a friendship with NaLyssa Smith. Was that a big factor? Did you ask her what Coach Nicki is like and is this a good spot for me?  What were some of the reasons why ultimately chose the bears?

Aijha Blackwell:  
Well, I like the environment, the fan base is outrageous. I love that. It's just a championship environment and feel.   It's all about winning and we get in the community and I like that so Baylor felt like home.  NaLyssa, she's a very close friend of mine we play on the same USA team and we created a bond since that. Actually, she didn't even know I committed.  I kind of surprised her.  She was a little salty about it, because I didn't tell her (laughing).

Ashley:
That's awesome. Well, you're different, you have different games but from a productivity standpoint, we know you're going to bring a lot of the same things to the table... scoring and rebounding.  I saw you put on social media, that it's hard to find you in a picture where you're not smiling and already I can tell you got a million dollar smile. I watched your videos and I mean you have that killer instinct. I mean you seem like you play with a lot of joy but you also know when to go for the throat, so to speak, and you're not the friendliest player in the world on the court. You're trying to destroy your opponents. Where does that come from?  Where's that tension, are you a happy person off the court and then on the court a switch flips?  I mean, what what happens there?

Aijha:
I think you said it, a switch does flip on the court.  I'm very goofy, funny. I got a big personality. So I'm always energetic but on the court it's like business or something like that.  That’s what I think.

Ashley:
Yeah, so tell me about your visit to Baylor? I know there's some social media posts that were out there. I think it was an interview where you were having a mock interview with a reporter.  What was your visit like? And did you did you form an immediate connection with your new teammates on the visit?

Aijha:
Yeah, the visit was fun. Like everybody was really gelling at dinner, just hanging out with the team. Everybody was themselves. It was different personalities, which is always good. Because like, you learn from each other and stuff like that. So it was good. It was really fun. Um, we put that video out, we knew we were going to be in trouble, like, from the media, like we knew everybody was gonna come in and say what they want to say. Like, they're bailing, bailing, and that was fine.

Ashley:
That's good.  Where do y'all go to dinner? Do you remember the name of the restaurant? What kind of food was it?

Aijha:
Yes, they I'm pretty sure it was like a good steak. House.

Ashley:
Diamondbacks? 135 Prime? does that sound right?

Aijha:
I will have to look it up.  

Ashley:
I put you on the spot by asking you that. I was curious. Alright, so I read on your Missouri bio that you may want to be an elementary teacher after your playing days are over. Where did that inspiration come from? Is that still the plan or has that changed? 

Aijha:
Yes, that was my aspiration like my mom, she was a high school teacher. She taught ninth grade English so that was definitely my aspiration. Like I grew up like teaching imaginary students in my room. Like it was one of those dreams that was one of the things I wanted to do. But right now I'm on communications.  And then on camera after I'm done playing, just working on that aspect of my life, probably but if I have the chance I would get in the classroom again, like if I want to come back to school and finish that out.

Ashley:
Awesome. Alright, so your mom's an English teacher? Did she make you read a lot when you were growing up? Was that something that every summer she was putting books in your hands?

Aijha:
That and I just know your English grade had to be above me. It had to be above a B.

Ashley:
You can probably tell from my background on the screen, I'm a reader. Do you have any favorite books that come to mind? What did you read growing up that had an impact on me?

Aijha:
I liked Diary of a Wimpy Kid. That's probably the year that I was probably like the book. 

Ashley:
Yeah, that's cool. All right. So I'm going to ask you a philosophical question here. You can invite two people to dinner. You may not remember the name of the restaurant. I'm just kidding. But one living, and one that's already passed on, who do you invite and why?

Aijha:
Okay, so I would invite LeBron. Okay. I would definitely invite LeBron.

Ashley:
That's your favorite basketball player? Yes.

Aijha:
Um, so not living? I would say my dad. Okay. Yeah.

Ashley:
So your dad passed away? How long has that been?

Aijha:
He passed away when I was three going on four. 

Ashley:
Those are those are great answers. Now that would be an interesting dinner for sure. So what do you feel like needs the most work on your game to get to the WNBA?  What are you looking forward to the most about playing at Baylor this season?

Aijha:
Um, so yeah, Me and Coach Nicki talked about it a lot. Just getting outside working on my three game, my guard game on the wing. I just need to develop more handles and stuff like that. So I really play undersized at Mizzou. And it was kind of new for me playing down there in the post and battling with the bigs. You know, I'm not even like six foot. But yeah.  So that's gonna be different. But just getting outside working on my three game.

Ashley:
Well, you're effective down on the block. It’s your quickness, but do you have a long wingspan? Is that one of the reasons? Do you know, your wingspan by chance?

Aijha:  
I don't even know it?  I think I have shorter arms.  

Ashley: 
So it's mainly the quickness aspect that that causes you to be effective down low!  Alright, so we have a bunch of people that have asked questions on the message board. So I'm just gonna roll through some of these questions for you. One of them.  Was Coach Collen being a former WNBA. coach... was that a factor in your decision?  Did that matter to you at all?

Aijha:
Um, I definitely would say I'd be lying if I didn't say it didn't have any type influence. You know, of course, she's been through the ropes. She knows what you need in order to get to the next level. Along with she's won at the highest level. So yeah, I think that.  She's an amazing coach. Like, just doing research on her and just watching her games that she's coached in. 

Ashley:
She's awesome. And the few times I've interviewed her, her knowledge of the game is incredible. Okay, so we have a poster named slimecap. She's kind of like the goat of women's basketball fans. She's got a bunch of questions here. So the first one is, did Nicki describe your future role on the Baylor team prior to your commitment? What did Nicki envision your role with this team?

Aijha:
Um, I think she just wants me to continue to be dominant. As I was in the SEC, just getting on the wing, you know, not necessarily being down in the posts all day and all night. Just get on the wing and just bringing what I bring to the game and for my team, just that dominant piece, the energy, that type of stuff.

Ashley:
You played against Baylor obviously, you played great. Then you also play in the SEC where you went up against Dre (Edwards- Baylor transfer from Kentucky) what was it like going up against her?  Did you match up against her individually a lot?  Because she's kind of the same. She's got some similarities to you as far as like rebounding and she plays a little bit on the outside plays inside. What was your impression of her as a player?

Aijha:
Yeah, she is a walking double double. She's very strong. So she gets a lot of like mis-matches. Of course, it was a little difficult on me because she is about the same size.  But yeah Dre is fun to watch. You know, she's energetic. She's a good basketball player. 

Ashley:
That's awesome. All right. So this is the second question from slimecap. What are your 2022- 23 goals to improve your WNBA draft readiness? You kind of discussed that already. Let me move on to question number three. Dre was reported entering the transfer portal on March 25. And on March 25, you reported entering the transfer portal. She transferred from Kentucky, you are transferring from Missouri simultaneously. You both made a Baylor visit around April 20. Any coincidence there? Was there some planning involved there? I mean, what's the scoop on that?

Aijha:
Oh, yeah, so like Dre hit me up. As soon as she got in the transfer portal. I was like, look, we need to go make something happen. Well, I honestly didn't know Dre was gonna be on the same visit as me. So that was crazy. It is like something telling us like, you know, come on, we got to make this decision. So we had a talk before and it just happened. I guess it was meant to be you know.

Ashley:
Yeah. So the relationship was already there. But it wasn't like you talk to each other and said, Let's go to Baylor beforehand. It just happened to work out.  Of the four Baylor coaches, which one was most involved in your recruitment? Who was the first coach to hit you up of the Baylor coaches?

Aijha:  
It was Coach Nicki or Chloe. 

Ashley:
Today's your last day in Missouri, right. You're headed to Waco tomorrow. Correct?  Have you ever been outside of the state? I mean, obviously you've been outside of the state to go travel but have you ever lived outside of the state?

Aijha:
No, I haven't. It's new for me. First time outside of Missouri.  

Ashley:
Welcome to Texas. You'll enjoy the heat of summer but basketball is played indoors so you'll be indoors most of the time. All right, so this is from another woman's basketball fanwhat made you choose Baylor over South Carolina? Did it come down to Baylor or South Carolina?

Aijha:
And Ole Miss, Baylor is a different feel. You know, like Baylor just feels different like it's something you want to be a part of, and you want to continue like the legacy of like the winning and just you want to be a part of it. You want to experience it, you want to win, you want to grind you want to be around good people. I think that was the most important thing for me, like the environment and the people were just unmatched. Like the personalities and everything like that. 

Ashley:  
Maybe the friendliness of the campus was a different vibe than other places, would you say that?

Aijha:
It was a different vibe. It actually felt like a campus and I the campus is very pretty too. 

Ashley:
All right. We got got one more question here for you. This is a question from Dcheetah. And they asked did you scrimmage with your new teammates on the visit?  Did you play pick up during your visit?

Aijha:
No, if I tell you the story of my visit, like you'll be like, wow, like, like how I got there. The timing of it was very quick. It was a quick turnaround. Like a quick turnaround.  I didn't get to scrimmage. I wish I would have but it was very short.

Ashley:
Got it. when did you discover your love for basketball? What age did that start?  Did you play other sports?  Was basketball your first love? Or do you have some other sports that you were playing as well?

Aijha:
I'll play football a little bit in the yard with neighbors.  I discovered my love for basketball when I was eight. So that was like it for me.

Ashley: 
That's great. So let me ask you some more questions from dcheetah. If I can find it, here it is. So who was a major influence or mentor for you?  Let's talk about that. Outside of basketball and or with basketball. So who have been some major influences in your life? Outside the court and on the court? 

Aijha:
On the court. I would definitely say my AAU coach William Holloway. He's been that person. That was always in my ear. Like, you need to do this. You need to do that. You need to work on this  just pushing me constantly.  Off the court... my mom.  Yeah, my biggest mentor off the court was my mom.  

Ashley:
Do you have brothers and sisters.

Aijha:
Yeah, I do have six siblings. So six. Yeah.

Ashley:
Where do you fall? Where do you fall in that age range?

Aijha:
Um, the third oldest. 

Ashley:
What are the ages? Like? What? From what age? To what age? What? How old is the youngest? And how is the oldest?

Aijha:
So the oldest is 27. Okay, um, the youngest is four.

Ashley:
You go across the spectrum there are all right, so I got a couple more questions from dcheetah.  What do you like to do besides basketball? What are your hobbies? Outside of basketball?

Aijha:
I like watching movies. That's probably like the main thing. Movies and sleep. I also like to look at nature. Like I like to go on like walks and stuff like that. I like to look at views.

Ashley:
Yeah, so like, like some hiking?  There are some cool areas around campus like Cameron Park Zoo. There's, a lot of cool little areas you can get away and feel like you're in nature. On the river. How many hours of sleep do you get a night? See, I

Aijha:
I probably get near eight to 10.  I try to go to sleep around 9-10.

Ashley:
Do you enjoy the recruiting process?  Do you consider yourself a good recruiter for others? Take that question. whatever direction you want to go with it.

Aijha:
I would say both. I like creating stuff. So like, similar to what me and Dre did. It was just like, man, let's go do this. Let's make something happen. Like, let's make a dream team. 

Ashley:
So who's the toughest opponent that you faced up against this past year?

Aijha:
I'm gonna say, NaLyssa that game was definitely intense. Um, I got a few foul calls on me that I don't think that they were fouls. 

Ashley:
I would agree.  I went and watched the highlights before I interviewed you. I watched the game live but to have those fouls. I was like, you gotta be kidding me. But home court, right. That's what happens.

Aijha:
I'm like, You know what, I know that I have, you know, go Bears.

Ashley:
Did you have any funny or interesting recruiting stories that you remember?

Aijha:
I remember coaches actually like being very angry with me once I told them I'm not interested, you know. Very angry. So. I don't know. 

Unknown Speaker  
Sounds like something Kim Mulkey would do. I'm kidding. I'm kidding. Some will appreciate that comment, some won’t. That was another game I watched and that was another terrific basketball game your game against LSU. I mean, it was back and forth. And you had them on the ropes and then eventually they they got the best of you. But did you foul out? You fouled out of that game too, didn't you?

Aijha:
I'm always fouling out. You know, I gotta chill with it.

Ashley:
Did you? Well, I mean, I'm doing this from memory. But I think the Baylor game and the LSU game were the only two you fouled out in? Or did you have some others that you fouled out in as well?

Aijha:
I probably had like two or three other ones.

Ashley:
So that's something you want to work on too?

Aijha:
I gotta keep my hands to myself. 

Ashley:
Well, when I interviewed Nicki and I was going through the roster after you had committed and signed, I think she mentioned one of the things that she loved about you is just you're like, every loose ball, you're going for it like you have this like recklessness about you, that's a positive, you know, like, you bring energy to the team with your hustle and your effort and your desire to get every 50/50 ball. Is that something that has always been in you? Or does that come from playing football with neighbors in the backyard? Where did that come, that instinct of like the ball is mine, I'm gonna get it.

Aijha:
I would just have to say like, being hungry for the ball. Like, yeah, if the ball is there, go get it like every loose ball. Everybody should be on the floor getting it, you know, just extra protection. So it's like, but I think that just came from my hunger for the ball. Let alone like rebounding and just get extra possessions.

Ashley:
Alright, so you say you're a movie buff?  What's two or three movies that you like?  What's your favorite basketball movie? That's always a controversial topic.

Aijha:
Love And Basketball. 

Ashley:
I hear that a lot.  It didn't move me the way it moves others. I mean, it's a good movie. That’s usually one that everybody picks.  What other movies have you enjoyed?

Aijha:
I like Fast and the Furious.

Ashley:
You like action films?

Aijha:
I like suspense movies. So yeah. Not like super scary, but like, thrillers.

Ashley:
Yeah, those are always good. Listen, I know you're, you have a computer that's declining in power. So we don't want to cut you off in the conversation. This has been an awesome conversation. So thank you for taking time to do this. And, and we're gonna be doing this with basketball team, the women's basketball team through the summer as part of the Athletes Plus subscription but I just wanted to say what an awesome way to get to know you and we're excited to watch your progress and look forward to watching your and hearing more from you as the season goes along. This has been an interview with Ashley Hodge and Aijha Blackwell, Sic’Em Bears!
 

Discussion from...

Athlete Plus: Aijha Blackwell (WBB)

552 Views | 4 Replies | Last: 1 yr ago by Dcheetah
SurfingBear
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Chibears2
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Enjoyed getting to know more about this young woman. Subscribed specifically because of these interviews with the WBB team.

Sic'em Aijha!
BeauxBear
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Excellent interview. Excited that Aiha followed her heart and The Spirit and made the move to come to the best women's basketball program in the United States of America.
BeauxBear. Old School BU Grad.
Dcheetah
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I was hoping for Aijha more than any other player entering the portal. So glad she is a Bear. And that smile...!!!
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