Nicki Collen looks to open up offense

Nicki Collen, Baylor's new women's basketball team head coach, implements summer workouts for the team, pushing for a new style of offense. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Gio Gennero | Sports Writer

New Lady Bears head coach Nicki Collen has gotten a jumpstart on implementing her offense with summer workouts, which is a first for the program. In an interview with SicEm365, Collen said she understands implementing changes takes time and perfection isn’t going to happen overnight. Collen said that the workouts have been really important, and she’s aware she’s putting her players in constant new situations.

“I’m a firm believer in sweat equity,” Collen said. “I’ve told my players so many times to ‘get comfortable being uncomfortable.’”

Collen, former head coach of the Atlanta Dream, is bringing a WNBA- style approach to her offense. Instead of Baylor’s usual two players in the paint and attacks from the inside, Collen’s offense typically runs with four players outside the three-point line with one player in and out of the paint, creating a higher volume of three-point attempts.

“The guards are happy because they’re allowed to shoot threes now,” Collen jokingly added. “It wasn’t that Baylor didn’t shoot well from three; it was the volume of threes. So we do need to open that up.”

In the 2020 season under Nicki Collen, the Atlanta Dream shot 35% from three on 16.9 attempts per game. Last season, the Lady Bears shot 33% from three on 10.7 attempts per game, ranking outside of the top 150 teams in the nation. Ranking No. 325 with only 3.5 scored threes per game.

To help their three-point shooting, Collen signed Ja’Mee Asberry, a transfer from Oklahoma State University. Asberry shot 41.9% from three, 25th in the nation among players, on 6.6 attempts per game, 17th in the nation.

New York Liberty guard and former Lady Bear, DiDi Richards, believes Collen’s spread out offense will be beneficial for the players, especially NaLyssa Smith who’s expected to be a huge part of the offense.

“Liz [NaLyssa] is definitely gonna thrive off of this type of offense,” Richards said. “I feel like everyone in college needs to run this, I’m not going to say “need” but when you come to the league it’s gonna be a big difference … So I think it’s gonna be good for Liz to get some exposure to that because she’s definitely going high in the draft.”

The Lady Bears had a lot of success under former head coach Kim Mulkey including three National Championships and were just one controversial call away from making the Final Four last season. However, Collen said she believes there’s always room for adjustments.

“Just because this was the box you were in before, and you were very successful and won a lot of games, doesn’t mean that’s exactly how we’re going to play,” Collen said.

Despite it being her first season as head coach, there is confidence in Collen and what she brings to the table given her experience.

“When you have to defend elite players in the WNBA, you have to come up with creative schemes,” assistant coach Tony Greene said. “With that experience … there is a lot she (Collen) can contribute to the Baylor program X’s and O’s wise.”

Nicki Collen knows there are people who underestimate her. However, she has confidence in what she and her players can do.

“There is a method to my madness,” Collen said, “I’m sure a lot of people are asking ‘Does she know what she’s doing?’ and I firmly believe I know what I’m doing, my method might be a little different than everyone else’s.”