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Baylor Women's Basketball

Podcast: Women's Basketball 2023-24 Preview with Nicki Collen

May 23, 2023
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Nicki Collen discusses the upcoming Baylor WBB roster in depth and also answers some Sicem365 subscriber questions as the Bears prepare for the season ahead


Nicki Collen, the head coach of Baylor women's basketball, was interviewed by Ashley Hodge for the SicEm365 podcast. They discussed various topics related to the team's roster and the upcoming season.

The interview began with Ashley expressing his appreciation for Nicki taking the time to discuss the basketball roster and the team's prospects for the upcoming year. Nicki mentioned that the spring had been busy, with preparations for the current roster, finals, and planning for a summer foreign trip.

When asked about the foreign trip, Nicki revealed that the team would be visiting Italy and Greece, exploring places like Naples, the Amalfi Coast, Athens, and Santorini. She expressed excitement about the opportunity for the players to experience different cultures and history.

Ashley then moved on to discuss the backcourt players, starting with Sarah Andrews. Nicki praised Sarah's performance in her sophomore year, where she showcased her skills as a dynamic point guard and scorer. However, injuries affected her performance, and Nicki emphasized the importance of keeping her healthy and consistently engaged in practice. She also mentioned Sarah's potential to contribute both as a point guard and a scoring option.

The conversation then shifted to the team's depth and how it affects defense. Nicki acknowledged the impact of depth on defensive play and mentioned the team's plans for more aggressive defensive strategies. She emphasized the importance of competing on every possession and making good decisions on the court.

They discussed Jana Van Gytenbeek's progression as a basketball player and her role in the team. Nicki highlighted Jana's competitiveness, positive attitude, and the need for her to regain rhythm and confidence after limited playing time in previous years. She mentioned Jana's ability to improve the team's spacing and expressed hopes for her to become an energy-driven guard.

The conversation moved on to the new guards, Yaya Felder and Jada Walker. Nicki discussed Yaya's playmaking abilities, scoring at different levels, and her knack for drawing fouls. She also compared Yaya to Riquna Williams in terms of playing style. Regarding Jada, Nicki praised her defensive energy, steals, and willingness to improve as a point guard.

Ashley then mentioned the team's strength in the guard-forward positions and highlighted Denae Fritz's addition. Nicki commended Denae's toughness, defense, and her ability to take on tough challenges. She also noted Iowa State's defensive prowess and analytical approach to the game.

When asked about Darianna Littlepage-Buggs and her comparison to Nina Davis, Collen agrees that Buggs has similarities to Davis in terms of playing as an undersized post and being a skilled driver. However, she notes that Davis was more physical and adept at taking bumps, while Buggs is more finesse-oriented and needs to improve her strength to handle physical play.

Collen then moves on to discuss the recovery process of Aijha Blackwell and Dre Edwards, two players who were expected to be key contributors but were unable to play last year due to injuries and eligibility issues. Blackwell is described as a physical and aggressive player with good rebounding skills and three-point shooting potential. Collen also highlights Blackwell's potential to become a facilitator and improve her passing ability. As for Edwards, Collen praises her versatility and ability to play different positions on the court. She mentions Edwards' skills as a low block scorer and her basketball IQ, comparing her to Caitlin Bickle in terms of understanding the game. Collen emphasizes that Edwards needs to work on her perimeter skills, including handling the ball and perimeter defense.

The conversation then shifts to Dre Edwards' positive energy and love for the game, as well as her involvement in the Baylor community through joining a sorority. Collen expresses admiration for Edwards' ability to prioritize the team's success over personal concerns, which contributes to a positive team dynamic.

Next came a discussion about Caterina Ferreira, a player who showed promise but struggled with the transition from junior college. Collen highlights Cat's talent and ability to make spectacular plays, but mentions the need for her to simplify her game, improve decision-making, and prioritize the right things. Finally, Collen talks about Madison Bartley, a transfer from Belmont, and how they were looking for productivity in the transfer market. She sees Bartley's role as similar to Caitlin Bickle's, doing the dirty work, making threes, and taking charges.

Next, they discuss Letycia Vasconcelos potential and the team's roster depth. Lety is a 6-foot-7 player who could possibly take longer to develop due to her size. However, Coach Collen acknowledges that Lety had the advantage of playing with highly talented teammates at Montverde Prep, which helped her learn to compete. Lety's experience in playing with top Power-5 D1 kids and practicing in a college-like environment has prepared her well.

Coach Collen believes that Lety has the ability to play and contribute to the team right away. Lety is skilled in rim protection, rotation, and has good touch. Despite not scoring huge amounts in high school, Coach Collen attributes it to playing on a team with exceptionally talented players. Lety is expected to develop a three-point shot and improve her physicality in the collegiate game. Coach Collen also emphasizes the importance of Lety's ability to catch and throw high passes due to her height.

Regarding the team's roster and the addition of length and guards from the transfer portal, Coach Collen expects the defense to improve. The increased length allows for easier switches on defense and better rebounding. She believes that adding guards who can rebound will help prevent second-chance opportunities for opponents. The goal is to be more aggressive defensively and create turnovers that lead to more offense.

The discussion then shifts to the challenges of navigating the NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) landscape and recruiting. Coach Collen acknowledges that Baylor has been catching up in this area but believes the university is making progress. She mentions the need to strike a balance between embracing NIL opportunities while keeping the main focus on being great basketball players. Coach Collen acknowledges the changing landscape of college sports with conference realignment and the impact of NIL, emphasizing the importance of adaptation and growth to remain competitive.

In response to a question about managing playing time with a deeper bench, Coach Collen expresses her hope to have that problem and mentions the benefits of player motivation through competition and playing time. She believes that if players are playing hard, it becomes easier to manage playing time and substitutions.

The interview concludes with comments from fans expressing satisfaction with Coach Collen's performance and excitement for the future of Baylor women's basketball. Coach Collen also discusses the ideal rotation size, stating that playing around eight to nine players provides continuity and allows players to understand their roles better. While having ten players who can contribute is beneficial, it becomes more challenging to maintain consistency in rotation beyond that number. Coach Collen aims for a balance between providing playing time to many players while still maintaining a consistent rotation.

 
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