Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Katie Smith Wins Player of the Week

By Ryan Pretzer
June 26, 2007

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - It’s not just what she did, but when, that helped Shock guard Katie Smith win Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors for June 17-24.

Smith averaged 18.5 points as the Shock went 3-1 on a West Coast trip that very easily could have went 1-3. Smith scored seven of her 18 points against the Sparks in the fourth quarter Monday night, including the go-ahead 3-pointer after L.A. had erased Detroit’s 15-point lead from the first half.

Four nights later, Smith scored 11 of her 16 points in the fourth against Phoenix as the Shock rallied from 16 points down for the victory. In between, she scored a team-high 23 in a blowout of Seattle and ended the trip with 17 points against Sacramento, 13 of them coming after halftime.

“Yeah, if Katie every puts two halves together, she’d have an unbelievable week,” joked Shock head coach Bill Laimbeer. “She made big shots when it was necessary for us to win ball games and on top of that her defense was outstanding.”

Smith said the absence of All-Star forward Cheryl Ford for three of the West Coast games emboldened her and her teammates to be more assertive. “We knew we were a man down with Cheryl, and we all had the mindset to do a little bit more,” she said.

Smith has always been known for her all-around game, but she has taken it to another level this season. She averaged 4.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals this past week while shooting 41 percent from the field and 83 percent from the free-throw line.

Smith nearly pulled off a triple-double against Los Angeles, tallying nine assists and nine rebounds with her 18 points. On June 15, Smith recorded the first points-assists double-double of her career with 10 of each in a home victory over Connecticut, which visits The Palace again Wednesday.

“With Katie, she can turn it on when she wants to her, but her primary job is to keep everybody involved in the offense,” Laimbeer said. “So when she has to go score, she’s able to do that.”

Smith attributes her late-game outbursts to challenging the opponent’s defense and taking what they give her. “We all get chances - I got chances, Tweety (Deanna Nolan) got chances, Plenette (Pierson) got chances. When you get a shot, you know you have to step up and take it.”

Smith currently ranks 17th in the league in scoring (13.8 per game), fifth in assists (4.4 apg), 15th in free throw percentage (85 percent) and sixth in three-pointers made (23), but these numbers don’t hold a candle to the team’s 10-2 start - the second-best start in WNBA history through 12 games.

“She’s embraced the role that she has,” Laimbeer said. “If she scores three points in a game, sometimes that doesn’t bother her. Five, six years ago it would have, but now winning the game is all that matters.”

The Western Conference Player of the Week, San Antonio guard Becky Hammon, will visit The Palace this Sunday when the Shock host the Silver Stars (8-4).

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