Monday, November 18, 2019

Women's basketball great Katie Smith speaks to Atlantic City students

 GUY GARGAN Staff Writer
 Nov 15, 2019


ATLANTIC CITY — The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference basketball championships will be held in March at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall, but the benefit to the local community has already begun.
Former WNBA seven-time All-Star and coach Katie Smith and current Monmouth University women’s basketball players spoke to students at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School Complex on Friday.
Their appearance was part of the MAAC Gives Back community outreach program, which pairs Atlantic City students with men’s and women’s basketball student-athletes and coaches from the 11 MAAC schools.
Smith, 45, a former Ohio State University star, played 15 seasons in the WNBA, retiring in 2013. She won WNBA championships with the Detroit Shock in 2006 and 2008. She retired as the all-time scoring leader in women’s professional basketball history with 7,885 points and was second in WNBA scoring with 6,452 points. She won Olympic gold medals in 2000, 2004 and 2008. She was head coach of the WNBA’s New York Liberty for two seasons.
“With the MAAC Tournament coming to town, they’re really trying to engage the community and get people involved and also give back,” Smith said.
“I was able to say a few words and be there and engage with the students, and to share about what they can be a part of if they work hard, and hopefully spark something in the kids. They can follow their dreams, working hard and having success in their lives, if they just continue to do the day-to-day. They can be like the ladies who were in the front from Monmouth, who will also be in Atlantic City in March.”
Smith said she started playing basketball in the fifth grade on an all-boys team.
“I played a lot of other sports, and ballet and tap,” Smith said. “But sports definitely stuck with me, and I fell in love with it. Whether it’s music, sports, art, academics or your school work, the reason we can do things that we love is if we do the work in school and make sure we take care of that first.”
The MAAC men’s and women’s basketball championship will be held March 10 to 14 at Boardwalk Hall. The conference’s teams include Canisius, Fairfield, Iona, Manhattan, Marist, Monmouth, Niagara, Quinnipiac, Rider, Saint Peter’s and Siena.
“We have 22 teams, 11 men’s and 11 women’s, and we’ll be here in March,” MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor said. “We think it’s going to be special to have all these athletes in one place, and for the community to come out and support it. They’re going to see some great basketball.”
Ensor was also with Smith and the Monmouth players at the MLK School.
“We’re really working to engage the Atlantic City community in staying in school,” Ensor said. “They have a program called Never Be Absent, NBA, and we’re trying to enforce that. By never being absent, they can come to the MAAC Tournament as our guest. Additionally, they’ll have the opportunity to advance in school and someday perhaps get a scholarship to play in a MAAC school.”

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