Jayhawk Insider: Welcome to the show
By: Dayton Hammes
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Your first experience in Allen Fieldhouse is one that you’ll remember forever, whether you’re a lifelong Kansas fan or just a college basketball junkie. Your first experience in Allen Fieldhouse as a player, however, is even more special.
Kansas women’s basketball’s three freshmen stepped onto James Naismith Court for their first game as a Jayhawk on Sunday, Oct. 28, for an exhibition matchup against Fort Hays State with each of them contributing in their own ways.
Each player’s pre-game attitude was different entering their first collegiate competition, but each were also ready for the challenges to come as a college basketball player at Kansas.
Redshirt-freshman center Brittany Franklin suffered a season-ending knee injury prior to her initial freshman campaign last season, but after committing herself to the process and putting in hard work to recover, her time had come to contribute to her team.
“I was nervous,” Franklin said of her first college game. “I was so nervous, but it was fun.”
Despite her nerves prior to her first college matchup, Franklin was grateful for the opportunity to learn about the game and prepare for her comeback in a new way last year.
“I was working hard and I knew my time was coming,” Franklin said. “It was good to sit out a year. It helped me understand college basketball and how everything works.”
Franklin hopes to use that gained experience during her redshirt season to her advantage this year, continuing to learn and grow even more in her first season on the hardwood.
“I just want to learn more since it’s my first year to play,” Franklin said. “Since there are seven seniors, I’ve got to learn this year because I’m going to be older and have to step up next year.”
Franklin along with incoming freshman guards Brooklyn Mitchell and Aniya Thomas are all prepared to make a large impact on changing the culture of Kansas women’s basketball.
In order to change that culture Mitchell knows she needs to stick with what she’s comfortable with and going into her first collegiate game, she wasn’t nervous, just focused.
“(I was) relaxed,” Mitchell said. “(I just made sure) I didn’t go out of my limits and didn’t go and do the stuff that I’m not used to doing.”
It was obvious that it didn’t take Mitchell long to get comfortable playing in Allen Fieldhouse. The freshman phenom and five-star high school recruit led the Jayhawks with 17 points, four assists and three rebounds in her first collegiate contest against the Tigers.
But last Sunday’s exhibition matchup is only the beginning for Mitchell.
“I’m just going to give it my all by going 100 (percent) in practice and bringing that same intensity to games,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell’s transition to college has been made easier with the help of senior guard Christalah Lyons, who’s taken the freshman under her wing.
“Considering we play the same position, I can definitely look up to Stank (Christalah Lyons),” Mitchell said. “She’s kind of like my big sister. She’s really helping me learn, just talking me through practices and stuff like that.”
With seven seniors to guide the way and the support of their families back home, the freshmen are ready to do whatever they need to do to make an impact and help the Jayhawks to win.
Thomas, a native of Duncanville, Texas, had the support of 11 family members in her first collegiate competition. The family presence helped to subside her nerves as she checked in for the first time in Sunday’s game.
“I’m not going to lie, I didn’t think I was going to be nervous, but I was a little nervous,” Thomas said.
In 12 minutes of play, Thomas made key contributions for the Jayhawks, dishing out three assists and grabbing one rebound. The guard’s main focus is to do whatever she can to help the team succeed.
“I want to bring good defense, good ball movement and just help the team in any way that I can,” Thomas said. “I just want to contribute.”
Although they’re only one game into their college campaign, the trio of freshmen’s selfless, team-first mindset fits right in with KU’s ‘Tough and Together’ mantra. It will be a key part of the Jayhawks’ success this season and continuing the development of a winning culture for Kansas.
Welcome to the show, Brittany, Brooklyn and Aniya.
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