LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Baylor Bears women's basketball coach Nicki Collen said while she wishes forward Dre'Una Edwards would be able to play this season, she hopes to help her prepare for her future with the Bears and beyond.
Collen spoke Saturday after the No. 23 Bears' 75-62 victory over the No. 21 Kansas Jayhawks. Thursday, Edwards posted on social media about her eligibility situation since transferring from Kentucky this spring.
Because it was her second transfer -- having started her career with the Utah Utes -- Edwards was not eligible for the one-time transfer exemption that would have prevented her sitting out this season. Nor was she eligible to play right away as a graduate transfer, as she did not graduate from Kentucky.
Edwards said she has made significant progress toward a degree at Baylor, taking 33 credit hours since being at the school. In order for her to get a waiver to play this season, though, Baylor needed a signed document from Kentucky saying Edwards had no opportunity to participate for the Wildcats. Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy said signing that would be false, because Edwards would have been able to play for the Wildcats.
"They have a right not to sign it," Collen 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.
"Dre and I had conversations: 'Hey, it's 100% easier for you to stay at Kentucky.' 'Coach, I want to be at Baylor.' 'OK, this is what it's going to take. It's not going to be easy. But worst-case scenario, you're gonna sit a year to play a year, and we're gonna get you ready for that one year.'"
Collen, in her second season at Baylor, returned to the college game in 2021 after coaching in the WNBA. Collen said Edwards is trying to make the most of the time with Baylor and plans to return next season.
"Dre was not a bad student at Kentucky," Collen said. "We've been talking about her academic progress; we have a 60-hour rule at Baylor. So when she left Kentucky, she had almost 100 hours. So she transfers and loses 40 hours in the transfer. Baylor has this expectation, and I think they're right, that if they're gonna give you a degree from Baylor, that you're getting over half of your credits from Baylor.
"That's why she had to work so hard in the classroom. When Dre went into the portal, we absolutely called Kentucky to ask about her character. And we 100% understand NCAA rules."
When asked Friday at her regularly scheduled press conference about Edwards' situation, Elzy reiterated that Kentucky didn't stand in the way of Edwards going to Baylor, but that the Wildcats compliance office explained to her that without graduating, she would not be able to play this season.
"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.
"My priority is this program and our players. Dre decided to leave in March. We moved on and she moved on. And that's where we stand."
Collen said that Edwards is working in practice to improve for next season and a potential pro 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. I have no problem saying that."
Collen also added that another high-profile transfer, guard/forward Aijha Blackwell, is still recovering from injury. Blackwell, who transferred from the Missouri Tigers, was hurt Nov. 15 and returned for two games Dec. 15 and 18, but hasn't played since.
"She didn't sign a medical release, so I can't really speak on the specifics," Collen said of Blackwell's leg injury. "But we're not going to bring her back until she's close to 100%. Her future's too important. This is about protecting her. It's about extending her career, and her being able to make money playing this game someday."