Collen builds contender: Get to know Baylor women’s basketball newcomers

Baylor women's basketball has brought in eight newcomers to a program that has won 12-straight Big 12 regular season championships. Grace Everett | Photo Editor

By Gio Gennero | Sports Writer

After building on Baylor women’s basketball’s streak of being Big 12 champs, head coach Nicki Collen is now entering her first season with a team she built. The first recruiting class under Collen became a top ten ranked class. Despite losing multiple key players to the draft, including the second overall pick NaLyssa Smith, the Bears are reloaded and ready for the upcoming season.

Here’s what you need to know about the newcomers:

Aijha Blackwell

Senior Guard | 5’11”

Previous School: Missouri

2021-22 Stats: 14.9 points, 13.1 rebounds in 26 games (22 starts)

Breakdown: Last season, Blackwell earned All-SEC second team honors while averaging the highest single-season rebounds in program history. The once No. 9 ranked prospect in the nation has consistently averaged around 15 points since her freshman season along with double-digit rebounds.

What this means: This is probably the biggest offseason acquisition for the Bears, someone who is tested, proven, and an all-around great player. Her experience will be huge with so many newcomers, and she will leave a big imprint on this team.

Darianna Littlepage-Buggs

Freshmen Guard/Forward | 6’1”

Previous School: Classen High School

2021-22 Stats: 15.5 points, 12.8 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 1.8 blocks

Breakdown: Five-star recruit, ranked No. 17 overall and No. 3 in her position. McDonald’s All-American and Oklahoma Gatorade Player of the Year. Led school to state title in 2022.

What this means: Recruits this high up typically get a solid chance at starting early on. Given her flexibility in her position, it’s likely she will be competing with herself for most of the season and big things should be coming from Littlepage-Buggs.

Ysabella Fontleroy

Freshmen Guard | 6’0

Previous School: Kickapoo High School

2021-22 Stats: 24 points per game, 10.9 rebounds, 1.6 steals through 28 games.

Breakdown: Fontleroy, a four-star recruit, was the 41st ranked player in her class and eighth in her position. She was named the 2021-22 Gatorade Missouri Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

What this means: Fontleroy has some competition for the starting lineup considering three of the five returners on the team are guards as well. However, being one of the highest recruits of this Baylor class means she could be seeing a solid role on the team and has the talent to prove herself to Collen and the rest of the team.

Kyla Abraham

Freshmen Forward | 6’3”

Previous School: Smithfield High School

2021-22 Stats: N/A

Breakdown: Abraham was ranked No. 62 in her class and No. 10 in her position. Helped Smithfield to two district championships and was a nominee for Gatorade Player of the Year.

What this means: With Smith and other forwards gone, Abraham has a great shot at finding herself in a possible starting role this season. Collen has said Abraham reminds her a lot of former Bear Queen Egbo, and will develop nicely in this system.

Jana Van Gytenbeek

Junior Guard | 5’6”

Previous School: Stanford

2021-22 Stats: 2.4 points, 0.6 assists in 23 appearances off the bench.

Breakdown: Former five-star prospect out of high school, all-time Colorado girls basketball assist leader (679). Hit six three-pointers against Arizona last season. 17/18 of her shot attempts were from three

What this means: Gytenbeek proves to be someone who can get hot from beyond the arc and provide a spark off of the bench. With her experience and coming from a solid squad like Stanford, she will be able to get in and provide some decent minutes when the starters hit the bench.

Erika Porter

Junior Forward | 6’0

Previous School: Illinois

2021-22 Stats: 4.2 points, 2.3 rebounds in 23 games (12 starts)

Breakdown: Only averaged 13 minutes per game and remained a consistent contributor throughout the season. Second most blocks on her team during her sophomore season.

What this means: Whatever role given, she will be able to make the most of it. A solid defender who will continue her habit of contributing on the stat sheet. I don’t think she’ll have an overwhelming presence on the court, but will be someone the team is more than happy to have rotating in and out.

Catarina Ferreira

Junior Guard | 6’0

Previous School: Eastern Arizona College

2021-22 Stats: 10.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists

Breakdown: Two-time second-team NJCAA All-American and ranked as No. 2 JUCO player in the country.

What this means: She may be coming over from a JUCO, but JUCO players are nothing to scoff at. Especially since she’s one of the best players in the country. Ferreira is a solid all-around player who can score, rebound and pass on a consistent level. She may be a sleeper for someone who can really shake things up.

Dre’Una Edwards

Redshirt Senior Forward | 6’0

Previous School: Kentucky

2021-22 Stats: 16.8 points, 8.4 rebounds

Breakdown: Scored in volume on 52.1 field goal percentage in 26 games (12 starts). Last season had a 10-game stretch where she scored 20+ points in six separate games.

What this means: Edwards might be one of the best additions to this team. A veteran who can get buckets in volume and do it efficiently. She will likely be a instant-starter and will provide valuable minutes for the green and gold.