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Nicki Collen's connections fueling her players

The second-year Baylor coach has a unique relationship with each and every player on her roster

WACO, Texas — Baylor Women's Basketball head coach Nicki Collen did not have a casual offseason. She was hard at work, adding eight players to a roster that sported just nine total members a year ago. 

“I think this team is different, it’s very different," she said. 

Collen added everything from recruits who make up the ninth best 2022 recruiting class according to ESPN to former program record setters in the SEC. 

"I think that's why they came here because they want to compete for championships," Collen said. 

Collen is proving that talented players want to learn from her. But more importantly, they want to have personal connections with her. 

"That’s just like my second mom and I’d do anything for this lady, senior guard Jaden Owens said, referring to her head coach. 

Owens says that Collen makes sure her relationship with her players is more than just that of a coach. 

“I just wanna run through a brick wall for her," Owen said. "It’s not a business to her, yes you want to win, but she cares for me as a person. If you care about me as a person and I’m not just a basketball player to you, I’m gonna do anything for you.”

That ability to cultivate relationships was evident in the recruitment of this current class. 

“The first time that I talked to you, I'm pretty sure we were on the phone for three hours, freshman guard Bella Fontleroy said. "Just from then, I was like the connection I have with this lady is insane.”

Fontleroy was considered the eighth-best wing in the 2022 class, according to ESPN. Schools like Louisville, Stanford, Arizona, Virginia Tech and others wanted Fontleroy to sport their colors, but it was Collen who got her to come to Waco. 

“She obviously knows her stuff, she's coaches pro, she's coached college before. She's different with each and every person because all of our relationships are different. I don't think there's a single other coach that I know that does things the way she does."

With her roster in place, Collen is expecting the same goals that any other Baylor team would have, even if there are lots of new faces. 

“I don’t think you put on a Baylor uniform and not feel pressure," she said. "I know I didn’t take this job and not feel pressure. No one wants to be the team that breaks the streak of conference championships.” 

The chase for a 13th-straight Big 12 regular season title begins on Nov. 7. 

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