By AnnaGrace Hale | Sports Writer
The No. 17 Baylor women’s basketball season is underway, and it’s a perfect time to showcase the new talent that was welcomed over the offseason. Junior guard Jana Van Gytenbeek is one of the newcomers for the program and has shown up in Waco to make a positive impact.
Gytenbeek played her first two seasons of collegiate ball at Stanford University and saw the court a total of 58 times off the bench. Gytenbeek was surrounded by success, as she was a part of a Cardinals squad that won the 2021 NCAA Championship by one point.
Now in Waco, the Greenwood Village, Colo., native said the transition from the West Coast has been easy because of her teammates and the Bears’ coaching staff. To her, they are like a second family.
“Everybody’s super welcoming, super helpful,” Gytenbeek said. “I have a bunch of resources. It’s been smooth, and I’m really grateful for that.”
And the welcoming nature of the program is what originally drew Gytenbeek to Baylor.
“As soon as I stepped foot on campus for my official visit, I just knew the culture was different — real, genuine, loving — and that was a high priority for me choosing a new school,” Gytenbeek. “So yeah, it was a pretty easy pick.”
Head coach Nicki Collen said Gytenbeek is incredibly well-conditioned. Collen and her staff monitor the athletes’ heart rate during practice, and she said she can’t seem to find a way to raise Gytenbeek’s heart rate, no matter how up-tempo a drill or scrimmage is.
“She’s in the best shape of any player I’ve ever coached, at any level,” Collen said. “So, the team has to run with her. She’s going to get it and she’s going to challenge in transition on every possession.”
The guard displayed her talent in the Bears’ (3-0) exhibition victory against Southwest Baptist. In 25 minutes of play, the five-star recruit out of Cherry Creek High School put up nine points, five assists and four rebounds while only committing two turnovers.
Collen said by seeing the court this season, Gytenbeek will and can become the best version of herself.
“Playing on a really, really good team and not seeing the floor very much, sometimes as much as you like your team and you’re super proud of your team’s success, you don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Collen said regarding Gytenbeek’s time at Stanford. “When you make these decisions to change — to transfer — it just almost creates this light at the end of the tunnel where she knows she’s not the best version of herself yet. But she also knows she thinks she has an opportunity to get there.”
Gytenbeek said she wants to bring energy, love and leadership to this team and is looking forward to the rest of the season.
“I’m looking forward to everything honestly, traveling, making memories of my team and my coaches,” Gytenbeek said. “I want to make Coach Nicki proud. I want us to do well.”