Smith leads Bulls through virtue
Published: Monday, February 18, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 18, 2013 22:02
As the regular season inches toward its end, with five games left, experience on the court has become invaluable for a Bulls team (17-7, 6-5) that sits at the dead center of the Big East.
Part of the experience and the staple in USF’s offense is senior guard Andrea Smith.
Andrea, twin sister to senior guard Andrell Smith, has emerged on the hardwood this season as a leader, after being forced to sit out all of last season with a torn ACL.
Though the injury may have been serious, with the season Smith is having, it’s hard to say that it slowed her down at all.
“I learned a lot while sitting out from coach and I watched a lot of film,” Smith said. “I really focused on myself and getting my teammates better.”
Smith leads the Bulls in scoring, averaging 16 points per game and has become a “safety net” for USF when it finds itself in trouble. For some players that could add pressure.
But for Smith, it’s something that she embraces.
“They do rely on me more, but it’s not added pressure because it’s nothing I cannot do or I haven’t been in that situation before,” Smith said. “I’m just blessed to be in that situation, so I think they do rely on me but I love it and there’s nothing better than making your teammates happy.”
Her role as “scorer” is something Smith has dealt with since high school and even in junior college.
At Lake Gibson High School, Smith averaged 20.7 points per game then went on to Gulf Coast where she helped her team to a total 59-4 record in two years, while also leading her team in scoring.
The experience has paid off.
“I think being a senior and being more mature, seeing a lot of basketball, being around a lot of basketball all my life and putting it all together my senior year has really been a difference in being a leader with the help of my teammates,” Smith said.
The role is fitting for Smith too, becoming a nuisance for defenses in the Big East.
Once Smith gets on a roll, she becomes difficult to stop and it isn’t her form, her energy or the crowd that plays the major role once Smith gets “hot.”
While those are all factors, it’s her focus on the ball and awareness of the pressure around her that allows her to gain momentum when it counts.
“It’s wanting it, accepting it and not shying away from it,” Smith said.
Her shooting is versatile. Her hustle is evident. And though it would be easy to take pride in her offensive play, it’s her ability to lead that that Smith is proud of most.
“I really take my pride in leading and being more focused and more positive,” Smith said. “When you’re more positive there’s a better outcome.”
Even as a Top 10 scorer in the conference, Smith seems to be more concerned with virtue over skill, focus and leadership, and not so much about individual stats.
Though it may seem that scoring and being a leader is something that has always accompanied Smith throughout her basketball career, the junior college transfer proves that no one is too good to learn, something she has done since joining the Bulls in 2010.
“I’ve loved it every step of the way,” Smith said. “Coming from a junior college to division one, it’s really been a learning experience.”
One of the most important things that Smith has been taught since becoming a Bull is not a particular skill, but perhaps one of the biggest virtues of them all.
“I’m more patient,” Smith said. ”I’ve actually taken every game, every step, play-by-play.”
With all she has learned in her years at USF, family and determination seem to play key roles in Smith’s last ride as a Bull.
“I’m just driven because it’s my last year to play with my sister. I’m driven to get better every day and just to make this last year memorable.” Smith said. “In spite of everything, I just go out and give it 100 percent.”
Smith and the Bulls will try to make this year memorable starting with a win Wednesday at 7 p.m. when USF travels to tip off with No.12 Louisville.
“I think we just need to continue to play hard, practice hard and stay together as a team.” Smith said. “We have five big games coming up and I think we can get all five.”