Baylor’s Nicki Collen: Dre’Una Edwards ‘absolutely’ deserves to play

Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy talks with Dre'Una Edwards during the 2021-22 season. (Mark Zaleski/USA TODAY NETWORK)

Baylor women’s basketball coach Nicki Collen understands the letter of the law when it comes to NCAA transfer rules. But she still believes Dre’Una Edwards, who transferred from Kentucky, should be able to take the court this season.

“Do I think she deserves to play this year? Absolutely,” Collen told ESPN. “I have no problem saying that.”

The transfer to Baylor marked the second of Edwards’ college career. She started at Utah but moved to Kentucky after her freshman season, then flipped to Baylor in the most recent offseason.

As a result, the redshirt senior forward was not eligible to play for Baylor this season — unless Kentucky signed off on a “No Participation Opportunity Form.” Wildcats coach Kyra Elzy declined to sign.

The form states “that Dre’Una Edwards would not have had an opportunity to participate if she had stayed at Kentucky,” Elzy said in a statement. “That would not have been correct; Dre’Una would have had the opportunity to participate if she had stayed.”

While Collen said she understood the position of Elzy and Kentucky, she still expressed her disappointment.

“They have a right not to sign it,” she said. “It’s just discouraging when you see a kid do what she’s done, accomplish what she’s accomplished in the classroom. You only get a finite amount of time to play this game. It’s about these kids and their growth and opportunity.”

The Baylor coach told Edwards she would have an easier path if she stayed at Kentucky. Collen also cautioned her about the “worst-case scenario,” in which she would have to “sit a year to play a year” — the scenario they in which they now find themselves. Still, Edwards remained steadfast in her decision to play for Baylor.

“Dre, along with Baylor and every other school that contacted us, had the understanding that she would not be able to play right away because she did not graduate,” Elzy said Friday. “Our compliance addressed it with her in March. Everyone was clear what would happen: She would need to sit a year to play a year.”

While Edwards called out Kentucky in a social media post Thursday, expressing her desire to compete this season, Collen and Edwards already are working to prepare her for 2023-24 season and for a potential professional basketball career.

“So she just has to get in this mode that we’re getting her ready for next year,” Collen said. “Do we want that to be the case for her? Absolutely not. Do I think she deserves to play this year? Absolutely.”