Basketball gives Smith twins connection

For USF womens basketball senior guards Andrea and Andrell Smith, basketball has been a connection that has kept the twins together.

Born and raised in Lakeland, Fla., as the third and fourth of five children, Andrea and Andrell come from a family with a strong athletic background.

When Andrea and Andrell were young, their father bought them a Fisher Price goal and placed a basketball in front of them.

My dad made us play. He didnt even ask us, Andrell said. He always put a ball in our hands.

Their father, Victor Smith, played basketball and football in high school and football at Bethune-Cookman University. Their older brother, Karlos, played football at FAMU and their older sister, Euneshia, followed her fathers footsteps and played basketball at Bethune-Cookman.

During her senior year at Lake Gibson High School, Andrea averaged 20 points per game and was named to the Florida Sportswriters Association All-Class 5A third team. Andrell averaged nine points per game and was tabbed an All-Class 5A honorable mention. Both twins decided to attend Gulf Coast State College, a junior college in Panama City, Fla.

At first, Andrell said she had a tough time adjusting to life away from home.

I had a stomachache every single day for three months, Andrell said. I could not do it.

With Andrell sidelined after a torn ACL three games into her freshman season, Andrea averaged 18 points per game, but when she traveled to play in the USA Basketball Trials without her sister Andrell, Andrea became homesick.

That was the first time Ive ever been without her. Even though my parents were there and they drove to see me try out, I was actually homesick, Andrea said. I was nauseous. My head was hurting, I was crying. I just had to talk to her.

Once Andrea got back from basketball trials, the twins reunited, where they helped guide the Commodores to a 32-1 record and a NJCAA National Championship in their sophomore year, after which they transferred to USF.

(Coach Jose Fernandez) was really persistent. He stayed with us even though we had to go to junior college because a lot of schools strayed away, Andrea said. He stayed in our ear, stayed close and always let us know that he really did want us from day one. He was loyal to me and my sister.

In her first season at USF, Andrea led the team in scoring, averaging 16.5 points per game. But just 52 seconds into the first round of the Big East Tournament game against Pittsburgh, Andrea tore the ACL in her left knee. This time, Andrell was left alone on the court.

Having her out there is everything, Andrell said. I feel like shes my right hand man on the court. Last season, Andrea had to watch her team from the bench as she recovered from her ACL injury. The Bulls finished
19-16 without Andrea and reached the third round of the WNIT.

Six games into the season, the Bulls are 7-0 and Andrea leads the team in scoring with 16 points per game. Andrell is glad to have her sister back.

I havent gotten to the point where I can play without her just yet, Andrell said.