Monday, February 06, 2023

Basketball great Katie Smith gives a powerful message at Lancaster H.S.


Tom Wilson

Lancaster Eagle-Gazette

LANCASTER – The game of basketball has given so much to Katie Smith, and in turn, she is always looking for ways to give back, which is what she did Monday night at Lancaster High School.

The Lancaster High School Girls Athletic Association held an event tabbed: An Evening with Katie Smith Monday night in the high school auditorium. The event coincided with National Girls and Women in Sports Day, which is celebrated on Feb. 1.

Former Lancaster graduate, Molly Haynes, who has been the public address announcer at the NCAA Women’s Final Four, as well as Ohio State women’s basketball PA announcer, talked about her career before introducing Smith.

Smith talked about her life experiences as an athlete growing up in Logan where she guided her high school team to the Final Four, before starring for the Ohio State women’s team. She helped lead them to the National Championship game during her freshman season. She would go on to be a WNBA All-Star, as well as playing and winning three Gold Medals on the Women’s Olympic basketball team.

Smith, 48, is now the lead assistant coach for the Minnesota Lynx in the WNBA.

Those in attendance Monday night were high school players, as well as youth players, many wearing the game jerseys. They all listened intently as Smith talked, not so much about her accomplishments on the court, but about what it takes to get there and how to become a female leader.

“First off, you have to love what you do, and I love playing basketball,” Smith said. “I would have played even if I didn’t get paid, but once I started having success, I knew the responsibility I had. I was grateful for the people who led me on this path, and I am proud of where I came from.

“Playing sports taught me so many different things, especially persevering through tough times. Things aren’t always going to be easy, but you have to come back the next day and get right back at it. Along the way, I learned I didn’t have to be someone else or what someone expected me to be. Don’t change who you are for others, and don’t worry about things you can’t control.”

Smith’s accomplishments on the court are astounding, and one constant is she has been a winner at every level.

She was the Gatorade National Player of the year during her senior season at Logan when she guided the Lady Chieftains to the Division I state championship game against Pickerington.

Smith played at Ohio State from 1992 to 1996 and made an immediate impact as she helped lead the Buckeyes to the national championship game her freshman year. Smith would go on to score 2,578 career points. She was the first female in OSU history to have her number retired.

During her professional career, playing in the ABL and the WNBA, Smith continued to have tons of success and retired as the all-time leading scorer in women’s professional basketball with 7,885 career points. In 2018, Smith has inducted int into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and that same year, she was also inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

Smith talked a lot about her family, including the love and support her parents gave her, as well as competing and playing sports with two brothers. For her, it was the foundation that led to her success, and as she grew older, she understood her journey was a process of hard work and dedication to her craft.

“Sometimes we get a little too concerned about the little things, but at the end of the day, it’s bigger than that,” Smith said. “Be your best. You are going to have bad days, you are going to have tough days, but you are learning through the process, so just making sure that you can get back up when things aren’t going well, is the key.

Smith fully understands the challenges of being a female athlete in a man’s world, and sometimes that can lead to a lack of confidence, but she stressed to always be who you are and value your self-worth.

“My parents told me to put your shoulders back, shake their hand with a strong grip and look them in the eye,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of females that lack confidence for a lot of different reasons, and I have thought about that, but then there is a point where I am who I am. I’m going to be healthy, strong and the best athlete I can be, so be confident in yourself, whether you are skinny, strong, you got muscles, whatever it is, put your shoulders back and have respect and have confidence in who you are and what you do. Embrace who you are in everything that you do.”

She also talked about being able to work with different types of people, including your teammates. She told those in attendance to find a way to embrace, accept and enjoy the differences each person brings to the table.

Smith encouraged those in attendance to push the envelope and use their voice because women athletes deserve more.

“Just learning and wanting to know more is an amazing thing and sports gives you that, it gives you the opportunity to meet different people,” Smith said. “You are the younger generation and it’s your responsibility to make it better, make the game better. There are people who did a lot before me, and we are trying to make sure you have those opportunities so that you can continue to grow this game, and one of those things is supporting each other. We have to support each other.”

Tom Wilson is a sports reporter for the Lancaster Eagle Gazette. Contact him at 740-689-5150 or via email at for comments or story tips. Follow him on Twitter @twil2323.

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