March 5, 2007
Former Buckeye Katie Smith and seven-time WNBA All-Star sat down with bigten.org at the second annual "Talk of the Town" during the Saturday off-day at the 2007 Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament presented by Xbox 360. In 1995, Smith led the Buckeyes to the first tournament finale and was named to the All-Tournament team.
The 1996 Big Ten Player of the Year went on to claim an Olympic gold medal on both the 2000 and 2004 Team USA squads and a WNBA championship with the Detroit Shock in 2006. Smith is the all-time leading scorer in U.S. women's professional basketball (WNBA and ABA) with 5,682 points and is second on the conference's career scoring chart with 2,578 points.
What was it like being a part of the first two Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournaments? How have you seen the event evolve over the years?
It was fun. We got to play at Hinkle Fieldhouse and obviously with the history that place has it was special. The fans were great, and that has stayed the same. The support for women's basketball in this conference and in Indianapolis is huge.
To move to Conseco, and to see all the hype and TV coverage is wonderful. Now with the development of the WNBA and the scouts, there's even a little bit more excitement. It was a blast to have it and I enjoyed playing in such a historic arena.
How did the tournament change the landscape of Big Ten Women's Basketball?
It gives excitement for the underdog to come through and to get a chance to make a run for the NCAA Tournament even if their regular season wasn't as good. It's just that tournament-type atmosphere: you lose and you're done. Just to get a warm-up for the teams that are moving on, is great for all of the teams, and it's fun to have match-ups and rivalries as all these games play out. You never know what's going to happen; that's why you play the game.
How involved are you with the team still?
I still live in Columbus and works out at the facilities while taking classes at Ohio State. I enjoy watching the kids. I want them to succeed. The coaching staff is great, and whatever they need, the support is there. We're there for them just to pick our brains if they want. They're good kids. We come back because we're fans. We want them to have every opportunity to do well, so it's always fun.
Having played in the first championship game, what kind of advice would you give the Buckeyes heading into the tournament finale?
Take care of what you need to take care of. Take care of the things you can control. If you're happy with the way the game played out and with the way the game worked, the effort, the wins and losses will take care of themselves. When you go out there and do the things that are asked of you and do the things with the heart and the effort that is needed, then win or lose you're going to be pretty happy with what you put on the floor.
What was the transition like for you into the WNBA?
It's been pretty easy. I think always in my mind I've been a worker just in a sense of going in trying to attack it. But I really had some smooth transitions through every level. It's fun because you find this camaraderie with all these people whether you played with them or against them throughout the years.
How special is it to have a fellow former Big Ten student-athlete on your Detroit Shock squad in Angelina Williams?
We actually watched her and saw her play at Illinois. Obviously there is some familiarity. There's some familiarity, just understanding the fans and where you played and the history. It's definitely something that gives us a common ground to kind of talk about and whatnot. Our paths are certainly a little bit similar in some respects.
What are your thoughts on the 25th anniversary of women's championships in the Big Ten?
It's just fun to see how the game has developed, and but you also have to keep your game to that level, too, so you can still be in the league. It's a lot of fun because it keeps me motivated, keeps me working hard to stay on top.