Ohio native Smith shined on basketball court

PHOTO SUBMITTED US Oympian Katie Smith and Tiffin University student Markella Suka share a laugh.

This is the final installment in a series about Olympians

THE HIGHEST SCORING BASKETBALL PLAYER IN WOMEN’ PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL (7,885 career points)

Do your achievements get any better than that!? … Yes, they can! There are no limits to Katie Smith’ abilities and achievements. The Ohio native carried on the legacy of student athletes in her family, from the inception of her basketball career at Logan High School, right through her Big Ten tenure at Ohio State University.

You could tell from a young age Smith would be no stranger to championship games, championship medals and all-time records.

After college, Smith’ basketball career continued to soar as she reached new heights, broke records and stamped her mark on a game she so passionately loves.

3 OLYMPIC GAMES = 3 OLYMPIC GOLDS

Smith describes her Olympic experiences as simply unbelievable. These are moments you dream about as a young athlete that maybe one day I can be an Olympian and for Smith that dream came true and then some.

Every time she participated in the games, she mentions just how much pride you take into it, to represent your country, where you are from, your family and friends and everyone who has supported you thus far.

With so much at stake and expectations trailing behind team USA, Smith says that as an athlete you just want to do the best you can and bring home the GOLD. In every sport, there is an invested interest that binds together athletes, spectators and home supporters. Therefore, the purpose becomes bigger than yourself but more about the people who have helped you and continue to support you.

Team USA did not operate like other nations did during the Olympic Games. They did not house in Olympic Villages, as Smith recalls lodging in a hotel in Beijing and a new apartment building in Sydney. A fundamental ritual that is still employed by USA basketball is it allows athletes to spend more time with family and friends but more importantly, accrue much needed sleep, focus for what is ahead and be ready to compete.

Smith added that the men’ and women’ teams did stay together but saw very little of each-other due to commitments and scheduling. However, Smith notes that when they were able to, there was a lot of interactions and support for each other on game days that reflected the tight-knit family group that they were.

Each host city has its standout features but for Smith, the 2000 Sydney games stood out the most. The ease of getting around, the people and the country made it another factor of a special occasion to be a part.

Can you imagine standing on the podium with your teammates, with a gold medal hanging from your neck, hearing the national anthem? What thoughts would be going through your head? Smith answers with the words, unreal and A LOT of things! She remembers thinking about the people in her life, the things that you sacrifice and the journey which all unfolds into one question. How am I standing here right now? Gratitude and embrace begin to settle in again as you replay the little moments that led you to that podium.

THE STUDENT BECOMES THE MASTER

By 2013, Smith had conquered 15 seasons in the WNBA, career highlights including two-time WNBA champion, seven-time WNBA All-Star, WNBA Finals MVP and WNBA’ Top 15 Players of All Time.

In her final WNBA season with New York Liberty, she knew her professional career in the U.S. and on the international level will come to an end. In October 2017, Smith was elevated to head coach of the Liberty.

According to Smith, the biggest challenge transitioning from player to coach is, “t’ a lot more work!”You are still around it, you are still doing what you love, just times it by a thousand!

Instead of managing one person and worrying about your own game, you now have 12 people to worry about. Smith maintains that you now must manage the little pieces to the ultimate puzzle. Your role and responsibilities go as far as figuring out how you can produce the best product on the floor with 12 different personalities and adjusting to the fact that you can’ directly affect it by being on the floor.

NAISMITH MEMORIAL BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME

Among her closet-full of achievements and awards, Smith can add 2018 induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame; the sport’s complete library. When asked if she considers this the highlight of her career, Smith responded “ell, it’ definitely up there! It is hard to have just one highlight.”

She emphasizes that when you’e a player, you are in it because you love it, you don’ think about the Hall of Fame but this definitely wraps up her career in a perfect little bow.

WOMEN TRYING TO BREAK INTO THE BUSINESS OF PRO SPORTS

Smith pleads to women that you must go out there and promote yourself and sell yourself. Don’ be scared to go after what you want and what you are interested and passionate about. Start making connections, reach out to people, show up at camps, ask to observe. Go after the job you want and the things that interest you.

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