From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is all about players to watch this upcoming season. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our ”Player to Watch” articles here.
Following the end of the 2022-23 Ohio State women’s basketball season, the guard position for the Buckeyes changed drastically. In last season’s Big Ten Co-Championship season and a 2023 NCAA Tournament run to the Elite Eight, it was the likes of Jacy Sheldon, Taylor Mikesell, and Rikki Harris who led the way in the backcourt.
At the end of the 22-23 season, that picture changed drastically. The scarlet and gray lost a combination of existing star talent and players looking to find a way into the starting lineup. Mikesell left for the WNBA and three guards all transferred out of the program in Hevynne Bristow, Mya Perry, and Kaitlyn Costner.
Ohio State solidified at guard following those announcements, adding graduate senior and 2022-23 National Defensive Player of the Year finalist Celeste Taylor from the Duke Blue Devils. Also, Kennedy Cambridge left the University of Kentucky after one season to don scarlet with three more seasons of eligibility remaining.
Taylor has all the makings of a star and Cambridge brings talent that could be unlocked by head coach Kevin McGuff, but the most intriguing player to watch this season is someone who hasn’t set foot into an NCAA game: Freshman Diana Collins.
In the past two seasons, it hasn’t been easy to get consistent minutes as a freshman guard for Ohio State. It’s led to departures like Perry, Costner, and now LSU Tiger Kateri Poole. Collins is going to be different.
Collins plays a game that looks similar to the graduate senior Sheldon. The 5-foot-10 guard moves quickly up the court, disrupts opponents on defense, and scores in bunches. Collins both shoots from deep and uses her crossover and dribbling ability to create separation and pull up with midrange efforts.
It’s no surprise to see Collins break down a defender and go to the basket too, or know where her teammates are on the court to find an open look.
With Brookwood High School, 45 minutes outside of Atlanta, Georgia, Collins averaged 19 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals a game. A point total that’s slightly down from a 22 points per-game average as a junior, but Collins made up for it in team hardware.
After scoring six points in the first half of the Georgia High School Association 7A title game, Collins scored 15 points, including the final three from the free throw line following a steal in the closing moments of the game. Collins’ nine fourth-quarter points led Brookwood to their first state title in school history.
Here are highlights from the game, with Collins in the No. 20 jersey.
Sheldon isn’t the only person Collins resembles on the court. The incoming freshman also has similarities to forward Cotie McMahon. Namely, the amount of experience playing against strong talent even before seeing an NCAA court.
Prior to the 22-23 season, McMahon cut her teeth against some of the best prospects in college basketball’s 2022 recruiting class with Team USA in the FIBA U18 Americas Championship. Coach McGuff applauded that work, saying it gave her an advantage over other incoming freshmen, leading to McMahon’s 22-23 Big Ten Freshman of the Year award.
Collins, who plays for Sweden internationally, has her fair share of competitive experience outside of high school too. Collins played in the FIBA U20 Women’s European Championship, averaging 11.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game in 28.8 average minutes.
Against Finland, Collins had 16 points, five rebounds, and four assists, putting Sweden into the Round of 16 before falling to France. Sweden ended the tournament in 11th place overall and won’t play in this summer’s FIBA World Cup, like McMahon’s Team USA, but Collins showed her ability to play the best in her age group in Europe.
Domestically, Collins featured in multiple camps and top prospect competitions. This April, Collins played for the World Team against Team USA at the Nike Hoop Summit. In May, Collins played in the Overtime WBB Takeover event in Atlanta, Georgia too.
It looks like Collins knows what it takes to compete early in the NCAA, taking advantage of all the opportunities coming her way before arriving on campus.
With both Sheldon and Taylor playing in their final seasons, the Buckeyes can’t afford to not let Collins adjust to the college game quickly. That means, expect Collins to come into games, mostly off the bench, to bring depth to the trio of Sheldon, Taylor and Harris, especially during smaller non-conference games.
Last season, the Buckeyes looked like they had depth but the injury bug bit hard. Sheldon missed most of the season with a foot injury and point guard Madison Greene sustained another knee injury that took her out for the rest of the season.
That meant Ohio State went down to two guards, with only one or two able to add brief minutes off the bench.
The ability of Collins added to the fold for 23-24 will give starters rest and set coach McGuff and the Buckeyes up for the future.