Baylor Bears

Big 12 Portal Thoughts: Baylor Women Keeping Things Steady

Nicki Collen.

Last season, Baylor women’s coach Nicki Collen took the Bears to the Sweet 16 for the first time since she took over the program from Kim Mulkey three years ago.

Now, she has to build on that as the Bears attempt to return to the Final Four, something they did regularly under Mulkey.

In this edition of Portal Thoughts, we examine the current state of the Baylor women’s basketball team and what remains to be done as the summer begins.


Baylor’s Losses (2)

The Bears had just two players that ran out of eligibility, but they’re both significant. Forward Dre’Una Edwards emerged as the team’s leading scorer after missing all of last season due to transfer issue. She averaged 11.6 points and 6.4 rebounds.

Guard/Forward Aijha Blackwell missed most of last season due to injuries and came back on a waiver. She averaged 8.4 points and led the team with 8.2 rebounds.

The Bears will have to replace 20 points and nearly 15 rebounds between those two.

Baylor’s Transfer Losses (3)

The Bears lost three players to the transfer portal and combined the trio averaged just four points last season.

Guard Denae Fritz is the biggest loss of the three. The former Iowa State guard averaged more than eight points with the Cyclones two years ago and was one of their best defensive players. But there wasn’t much playing time to go around at Baylor and she transferred to Big 12 rival Texas Tech.

Baylor also lost a forward, Catarina Ferreira (Oregon State) and a center, Lety Vasconcelos (Illinois) after the season.


Baylor’s Transfer Gains (1)

The Bears attracted just one player in the transfer portal but it’s a significant one. Former Colorado forward Aaronette Vonleh averaged 14 points and 5.1 rebounds with the Buffs, who reached the Sweet 16 last season. Her arrival should help replace some of the numbers lost with Edwards and Blackwell.

She was an All-Pac-12 selection a year ago and started every game for Colorado. She also played for Arizona before joining Colorado.

Baylor’s Recruiting Gains (3)

The Bears are bringing in three recruits for the fall, one of which was in junior college last season.

Guard Waiata Jennings, who hails from New Zealand, averaged 21.8 points per game last season and was named the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Two-Year College Player of the Year and North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference Player of the Year. She signed in April.

During the early signing period, the Bears inked two — guard Ines Goryanova, a Bulgaria native who played for DME Academy in Daytona Beach, Fla., and forward Kayla Nelms from Miami Country Day in Miami, Fla. The pair were ranked in the Top 75 nationally by ESPNW.


Set to Return (8)

Baylor has a significant amount of production returning in spite of losing Edwards and Blackwell.

That starts with guard Sarah Andrews, who triggered her COVID waiver to return after she averaged 11.4 points last season. She is the team’s leading returning scorer.

Guard/forward Darianna Littlepage-Buggs averaged 10.5 points and 7.2 rebounds in her sophomore season, while guard/forward Bella Fontleroy, also a sophomore, averaged 9.6 points and 5.0 rebounds, with roughly half of her games coming off the bench.

Guard Jada Walker had a solid year in her first season at Baylor, as she averaged 8.4 points and had 112 assists, second to Andrews. She really came on at the end of the season.

Guards Yaya Felder and Jana Van Gytenbeek gave the Bears valuable minutes off the bench. Forwards, Madison Bartley and Kyla Abraham round out the returnees.

What’s Left?

The Bears appear to have 12 players for the 2024-25 season. There’s a chance they could add one more player to give them 13. Even without an addition, the Bears look like a Big 12 contender, with the addition of Vonleh giving them an experienced inside presence to go along with their array of guards. Baylor needs one of Bartley, Van Gytenbeek, or Abraham to level up next season.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.

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