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March 10, 2003 - Image 15

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The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - March 10, 2003 - 7B

ALWAYS LOOKING
FORWARD
Jennifer Smith is constantly looking
to improve her game and wardrobe
By Daniel Bremmer Daily Sports Writer

The words have been blurred, but their
meaning is still as clear as ever. "Next"
and "play" appear on the shoes of
Michigan forward Jennifer Smith. The phrase
has been used as an inspiration this year - to
keep her focused on moving forward in a sea-
son that has been so difficult.
"It's more of a thing to get her to focus on
letting go and moving on," Michigan coach
Sue Guevara said. "She would get caught up
in not making a shot, and when that would
happen, you could see her body and shoulders
would drop. Maybe she wouldn't sprint as
hard down to the next end where, if you just
let that play go and go on to the next one, you
can be effective."
Now, after Michigan's long season, the
words are so worn and faded that they barely
resemble letters anymore. But just looking
down and seeing the blue scribble is enough
for Smith.
"Usually if I miss a couple of my shots, I'll
get down on myself and think, 'Oh God, my
shots aren't going to fall tonight,"' Smith said.
'But I've tried to really focus on shooting
every single time I get the ball, and not to
focus on what I did wrong, but how I can
make it right."
And while things haven't always gone right
for Smith, the Michigan program can at least
be thankful that any struggles in her collegiate
career have come for the Maize and Blue.
From East Lansing to Ann Arbor
Smith's success at Michigan would never
have been possible if not for a tough decision
she made four years ago. Because staying
close to home was a priority when selecting
where she'd play basketball, many people
around her had just assumed that Smith, a
Lansing native, would wind up a
Spartan.
But nobody expected that
"close to home" would mean
making the 65-mile trip to Ann
Arbor.
"It didn't go over real
well; everyone was kind of x
expecting me to stay at
home, so I kind of*
shocked some people ,
with that (decision),"
Smith said.
To this day, many'
friends give Smith a
hard time about being a
Wolverine.
"A lot of my friends go to Michi-
gan State. So when I go home, they
give me a lot of crap about it."
Smith was recruited by schools from
all over the country, giving the most con-
sideration to Duke, Clemson, Michigan
and Michigan State. But ultimately, being
near her family was the deciding factor.
Smith's close relationship with her parents
- who have only missed a handful of her.
games since middle school - and her
brother led her to decide that playing college
basketball in the state of Michigan was the
right choice.
"(Staying close to home) was a big factor,"
Jennifer's father, Greg Smith said. "She was
being recruited by other Big Ten schools and

other leagues, and she pretty much could have
played wherever she wanted to. But we told
her that we wouldn't be able to go to as many
games if she played out of state."
After narrowing her choice down to Michi-
gan and Michigan State, both of which were
heavily recruiting her, Smith decided that she
wanted to be out on her own to get the full
college experience.
"She thought that being an hour and a half
away from home, she would still be able to be
on her own somewhat, and we'd still be able to
come to the games," Greg said.
Jennifer's parents have enjoyed watching
her games and have attended nearly every
game she's played in her three years. The
Smiths even made the trip to Michigan's in-
season tournament in Hawaii during Jennifer's
freshman year, Greg's first time ever on an
airplane.
While the Smiths hoped that their daughter
stayed close to home for college, they didn't
pressure her decision one way or the other.
According to Smith's mother, Debbie, choos-
ing a college was her daughter's decision 100
percent, and she and her husband were behind
Jennifer no matter what choice she made.
After deciding that Michigan was the
school for her, Smith committed to play for
the 2000-01 season, and she hasn't looked
back.
The queen of style
Today, Smith is a junior who is making an
impact on her team, both on the court and off.
Sure, Smith leads this year's Wolverines in
scoring and is a close second in rebounding,
but just because Smith is all business on the
court doesn't mean she doesn't know how to
have fun off it.
"I would say she's very trendy, (especially
with) clothing," said Michigan senior forward
Raina Goodlow, one of Smith's two room-
mates. "She always has the latest clothing.
She loves to go shopping, and has little, nice
things all over the house."
"I think that anytime, if she has free-
time, and you're like, 'Jen, do you
want to go shopping?' she
would definitely go," said
forward BreAnne
McPhillamy, Smith's
,. other roommate. "She owns
a lot of clothes."
In addition to keeping up with
the latest trends in clothing,
..Smith is also trendy with her
selection of music.
"50 Cent, stuff like that," Smith
said when asked what music she
listens to the most. "Which I get
made fun of for (by teammates), but
whatever."
"She's so into R&B and rap," Good-
low said. "She likes all kinds of music,
but she'll surprise me. She'll listen to
some hard rap, and that's just Jen."
Goodlow, who missed all but four
games last year due to a staph
infection, had nothing but good
things to say about Smith, and
it's quite obvious that the -feel-
ing is mutual. Smith said
that Goodlow is one of play-
FILE PHOTO

JASON COOPER/Daily
Junior Jennifer Smith surprised many three years ago when she decided to come to Michigan - the Wolverines have been more than happy that she did.
Smith was without question one of the few bright spots in an otherwise disappointing season for the Wolverines.

ers on the team that she really looks up to.
"I have a lot of respect for Raina," Smith
said. "Especially since she came back and
worked so hard after not even being able to
walk last year."
Nursin' or hoopin'?
After earning her college degree, Smith will
have a number of options in her life, both ath-
letically and academically. But at this stage of,
approaching the end of her junior season,
Smith would like to continue to play some
sort of basketball after college.
"I'd be interested in possibly going to the
WNBA if I get recruited," Smith said. "If not,
maybe (playing professional basketball) over-
seas, but I'm not sure."
But before she boards her plane for Europe,
Guevara believes that Smith has a good
chance to play for the professionally for a
number of WNBA teams.
After last year, Smith's sophomore season,
she got a good deal of interest from WNBA
scouts. Guevara said she received "a lot of
phone calls" from scouts regarding Smith fol-
lowing the Big Ten Tournament last year.
Goodlow also believes Smith has a good
shot to earn a spot on a WNBA roster.
"The sky's the limit for her," Goodlow said.
"She has the natural height, great ability and
she's strong on the blocks. That's what every
WNBA team is looking for. I think she'll fit
right in."
"I think that she has a great upside, and I
hope we get to see more of that upside (next
year)," Guevara said.
While she would like to play basketball
coming out of college, this doesn't mean that
Smith won't be thinking about what career she
will ultimately wind up in. Smith was a Nurs-
ing school student her freshman year, before
being forced to transfer because basketball
proved to be too much for her academics. But
Smith said that she still wants to be a nurse
and is hoping to go back to school to get her
nursing degree after she graduates.
Smith's parents said that, once again, they
will support whatever decision their daughter
makes regarding her post-collegiate career.

"I'm not going to try and influence her one
way or another," Smith's father said. "As long
as she's healthy and happy, whatever decision
she makes is up to her. I want her to get her
degree from Michigan before she does any-
thing, and if she chooses to play pro ball, I'm
going try and make it to every one of those
games too."
Looking Toward the Future
This season, the Wolverines have struggled
with leadership. Through their non-conference
schedule, this weakness was not exposed
because the team was winning, coming out on
top in nine of its first 11 games. But since the
start of the Big Ten season in early January,
Michigan has looked like a different team,
losing 14 of its final 18 games.
Before the season began, Guevara expected
that leadership would have to come from her
two senior captains, Goodlow or senior
LeeAnn Bies. But over the course of the
team's embarrassing Big Ten season, the sen-
iors failed to step up. On the other hand,
Smith has taken charge, averaging 26.7 points
while shooting 64 percent over three straight
outings from Feb. 16 to 23.
Next season, it's obvious Smith will have to
be the leader that she has started to become
over the past few weeks. While she knows this
will be a challenge, she's looking forward to
it.
"I think I have the capabilities (to lead the
team)," Smith said. "I'm a really approachable
person to talk to. My teammates used to call
me 'Nurse Jen' because I have that character
and I did also want to be a nurse. I think I'll
be there for the team on and off the court."
"I feel pretty good about it," Guevara said
about Smith's ability to lead the team. "I think
she's vocal, she's got a pretty good head on
her and I think that she has a very strong work
ethic that the younger kids can look up to.
"I think every style of leadership is differ-
ent. I think Jen does a really nice job of letting
people know how she feels, and maybe calling
people out, saying, 'This is what you need to
do. This is what you're not doing."'
After Michigan's 82-55 loss to Michigan

State on Feb. 16, Smith was visibly frustrated
at her team's lack of effort.
"I wish our whole team would have the
same attitude (I have)," she said of the team's
loss, in which she felt that maybe some of her
teammates were giving up on the season.
While this statement was only enough to
fire up the team for two wins over the team's
last six games, it's a testament to how Smith
will look to lead the team next year.
And while many players may have been
relieved that the team's long and painful sea-
son ended on Friday in Indianapolis, Smith
wasn't relieved at all. Instead, she's anxious to
get next season underway and turn things
around.
"No I'm not happy that we're done at all,"
Smith said after the team's 72-50 loss to No.
12 Purdue on Friday in the Big Ten Tourna-
ment. "I wish we could've gone on, but I
mean I guess that's what I have to do now -
look towards next season."
Will the disappointments of this year and
last haunt Smith in her senior campaign? All
she has to do is look down to her shoes. In this
case, "Next Play" will have to translate to
"Next Season," and under Smith's guidance on
and off the court, next year's Wolverines will
look to erase the memories of the past.

Weather puts damper on perfect Blue trip

By Megan Koogy
Daily Sports Writer
The No. 19 Michigan women's soft-
ball team was on its way to its second
straight tournament win in Tallahassee,
Fla. After three victories on Saturday,
the Wolverines were in position to
defeat Troy State in the semifinal round
of the Florida State Seminole Invita-
tional. Only one thing could stand in
their way: Mother Nature.
On Saturday night, torrential rains
flooded the diamonds, dashing the
Wolverines' hopes of returning to Ann
Arbor with a championship.
"The rain was definitely frustrating,"
Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said.
"It's no small thing to get geared up for
a game and not be able to play, but I was
proud of the way the team handled it."
Although the weather may have cost
Michigan what would have certainly
been a boost to its morale, the Wolver-
ines did manage to up their record to
11-6. Hutchins was pleased with the
abbreviated performance in Florida.
"Fortunately, we got three games in,"
Hutchins said. "And going 3-0 in a tour-
nament like this is never a bad thing."

The Wolverines did not get to match
up with other top 25 teams, such as
Nebraska or Florida State, this week-
end, but they took advantage of the
opportunity to make up for the playing
experience lost to inclement weather.
"The team has certainly become
more cohesive," Hutchins said. "We
should have about 24 or 26 games
under our belts so far, but we only have
17. I'd say we're doing well, all things
considered."
In Michigan's first game against
Utah, senior pitcher Marissa Young pro-
pelled the Wolverines to a 1-0 win.
"Offensively, we didn't perform as
well as we wanted to against Utah,"
Hutchins said. "But our defense and
pitching was able to pick up the slack."
Later Saturday afternoon, Michigan's
offense stepped up, as junior Meghan
Doe drove in two runs, and scored two
of her own on the way to a 7-1 win over
Providence. Senior Melinda Moulden
had a pair of RBI's and one run.
Saturday's third game marked the
beginning of the rain, and the end of the
tournament. The intrepid Wolverines,
fueled by an improved pitching effort
from sophomore Nicole Motycka,

played through the rain and beat Florida
International by a score of 5-2.
"Florida International was a team
with a lot of spark," Hutchins said.
"Motycka came in on relief last night,
though, and I was really pleased."
The wet weekend in Tallahassee
allowed Michigan time to utilize its
strengths, and also gave it the chance to
see where it has room for improvement.

"We need to have better at-bats,"
Hutchins said.
Hutchins maintains that the only way
the Wolverines will be able to do this is
through more competitive experience.
"We need to get on the field and play
more than we need to practice," she
said. "It's been difficult to establish a
rhydim this season, but once we do this,
we should be set."

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