SPORTS

Canadian Hoops Star Kim Smith Talks About Jumping into the WNBA

6/24/2006

In April the defending WNBA Champion Sacramento Monarchs acquired Mission B.C.’s Kim Smith with the 13th pick in the 2006 WNBA draft. She was the 4th highest forward selected.



In April the defending WNBA Champion Sacramento Monarchs acquired Mission B.C.’s Kim Smith with the 13th pick in the 2006 WNBA draft. She was the 4th highest forward selected.

The 22-year-old sharpshooter, a 3-time Mountain West Conference Player of the Year with the University of Utah, is itching to make her mark in the pros.

“My first hoop dreams were to go down to a college in the States. Then when I got into grade 11 and 12 and the WNBA was still around and it was getting big I thought it would be really cool to play in the pro league,” says Smith. When was the wnba established?

Smith’s first basketball idol was pint-sized National team veteran Teresa Kleindienst who went to the same high school as her and blew Smith away with her tremendous work ethic.

“After Teresa it was Stacey Dales (Chicago Sky) and Tammy Sutton-Brown (Charlotte Sting). Seeing them go down to the States, make a name for themselves, and get an opportunity to play in the WNBA was inspiring,” says Smith.

In college the 6-foot-1 forward was the go-to-gal spearheading the Utah Utes’ sizzling offense. Smith’s hot hands averaged 19.7 points and pulled down 8 rebounds per game in her senior year.

This past March she propelled the University of Utah to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Championships for the first time in the school’s history. On the doorstep of the Final Four the next match-up was against the Maryland Terrapins. The Utes’ Cinderella slippers were still fitting fine, especially Smith’s who put on a dazzling 16-point swish-show in the second half.

In the dying seconds of the game, with just a one-point deficit to overcome, Smith’s teammate Shona Thorburn (a fellow Canuck who now plays for the Minnesota Lynx) stepped up to the foul line. A 70% free throw shooter, Thorburn buckled and failed to bury both shots, knocking one off the rim and sending the game to overtime. The deflated Utes were overcome by the Terrapins in the extra period losing the game 75-65. Maryland went on to win the championships.

While Smith was queen bee on the Utes, she has to prove herself all over again on the Monarchs.

“The first game was nerve wracking. There were a ton of fans and [it sunk in that] now this is a job. Here I’m fighting for a position and I can be cut at anytime,” says Smith.

Of late Canadians like Smith’s hardcourt heroes Stacey Dales and Tammy Sutton-Brown have thrived in the WNBA and odds are Smith who has already earned valuable experience squaring off against basketball’s best for the last four years with the Canadian National team won’t buck the trend.

“I’m used to the 24 second clock, I’m used to the faster game, I’ve played against the best players in the world before I even came here, so the jump from college to the bigs isn’t as difficult for me because I’ve already had that experience,” she says with confidence.

Smith also gets to learn the WNBA ropes from two of the top players in the game—Yolanda Griffith and Ticha Penicheiro—who between them have been named to eight all-star teams.

“They’re just so smart and so good, and they can really take control at the end of a game,” Smith gushes.

While Smith is still a little starstruck by her accomplished teammates, she’s done her share of impressing—praise for having heightened court skills is often dished in Smith’s direction.

“Kim is one of the most intelligent players I have ever coached,” says Team Canada head coach Allison McNeill.

“She is also one of the hardest-working athletes I have ever seen. Her greatest strength is her versatility—she does so many things well. She is a World-Class rebounder. She moves exceptionally well without the ball and can score in a variety of ways.”

An abbreviated version of this article was published in the July 2006 issue of Bell T.V. Magazine

Copyright © Mike Dojc, 2006

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