May 8, 2022 

Baylor reloads in the transfer portal

The Bears bring in three transfers in Nicki Collen's first full offseason as head coach

Following the departures of NaLyssa Smith, Queen Egbo, and Jordan Lewis, Baylor was forced into a position where they needed to replenish the roster through the transfer portal. With the losses to Texas in the Big 12 Championship and South Dakota in the Round of 32 still fresh, Baylor Head Coach Nicki Collen told The Next that her staff went looking for one main trait, toughness.

“You know, outside of certain skills and positions, it was about overall toughness. Is this someone that is going to win a 50/50 ball? Will they get on the floor when the game is on the line?”

In Collen’s eyes, they found that toughness. The Bears brought in three transfers: Kentucky’s Dre’Una Edwards, Missouri’s Aijha Blackwell, and Stanford’s Jana Van Gytenbeek.

Dre’Una Edwards, who is most well known for her legendary SEC Championship performance against South Carolina with her game-clinching three, averaged 16.8 points and 8.4 rebounds a game. Coach Collen raved about her versatility to The Next.

“I think we can use her in a variety of ways. She definitely doesn’t play exactly like NaLyssa Smith. But, I think she brings that stretchability to the post for us so we have the ability to continue to stretch the floor, keep the lane clean so that people can drive and cut into it.”

Jana Van Gytenbeek has not had the opportunities to get on the court like the other two incoming transfers. But Coach Collen explained how she was impressed with how she took the chances she got.

“When Jana played, she showed her ability to make shots from the perimeter. She showed intensity and toughness. I loved watching how fearless she is. I think she’s a player that can play the point and probably considers herself a point guard.”

Arguably the most exciting transfer is Aijha Blackwell, who averaged a double-double on the season, including 11 rebounds which is a skill that Coach Collen is looking to fill the gaps left by players leaving.

“We obviously lost a ton of rebounding in ‘Lyss and Queen and she is as good as anybody at getting the ball off the rim.”

Nicki Collen, the former coach of the Atlanta Dream, has had eyes on Blackwell since she was trying to scout for upcoming league talent. And she believes Blackwell has what it takes to be an elite small forward at every level.

“I see her ability to really be a special small forward with the ability to be athletic enough to guard people and switch, good enough off the bounce to attack people, to be able to post the smaller guards, to drive by bigger forwards.”

This season, Baylor will be looking to keep their long-standing Big 12 Regular Season Champion streak alive. And take the next step under Collen this season.

Written by Tyler DeLuca

Tyler DeLuca has been contributing to The Next team since May 2022. Tyler currently is the Big 12 beat writer for The Next. Tyler's work is also featured on Twitter with The Committee, hosting the "Art of the Paint" podcast and on Gameday U Hoops throughout the college season.

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