Series note: The Storm conducted exit interviews on Thursday, giving me the opportunity to ask players everything from views on their season to fashion and hair tips. I’ll post conversations from each in the upcoming days. Centers Ewelina Kobryn (Poland) and Ann Wauters (Belgium) won’t be featured due to their quick return home. Here’s a conversation with wing Katie Smith, a two-time WNBA champion who had a better season with the Storm in 2012. She averaged 6.7 points and 2.7 rebounds and was moved into the starting lineup after a year on the bench.
Q: You’re still finishing school this offseason, right?
Katie Smith: School (master’s in dietetics) has been kinda going on anyways. I’ll get back in it on Tuesday (Oct. 9). We’ve started our supervised practice rotations — it’s more of an internship. My first rotation is WIC — Women, Infants,and Children — in downtown Columbus. You go out in the community and you do that, then we’ll do a food-service rotation and a long-term care rotation. Then a clinical rotation. We’ll get our hours in and see how it applies to the real world after you’ve been in the classroom for a year.
Q: So, with WIC, what will you actually do? Is it a person-to-person experience?
Smith: There’s an RD (registered dietician) already there who I’ll go and basically follow/work with. It’s basically like your residency with medical school. You’re going and working with them and asking questions. They might ask you to do stuff and use you. You might volunteer, you might be hands-on. I don’t know how it’s all going to pan out, but your preceptor…it’s nerve-racking. It’ll keep you on your toes. It’s going to be challenging. But it’s going to be nice to see real life. What you like and what you may want to get into when it’s all over. So, I’m excited/really kind of nervous about it.
Q: Going forward with WNBA play, I know you like to sign one-year deals, will that be the case next year?
Smith: Right now, I’d like to play. That’s my mindset right now, I want to play next summer. We’ll see how it pans out, where I’ll be, who wants me and all of that. But, yeah, right now I feel pretty good. I still feel like I can help a team out.
Q: Is that because of the way you played the second half of the season and in the playoffs?
Smith: It’s the whole year. In the beginning of the season, I was a little banged up. But I feel good. I still feel like I can contribute to a team, you know. I still feel like I’m an asset and that’s what I want to be. Sure, I’m not your franchise (player). I’m not here carrying everything, but we (veterans) can be pieces that can help a team win games and win championships. And that’s how I feel. I still feel like I have a lot to physically give a team, to (be) whatever pieces to help them win.
Q: Have you talked to (Storm coach) Brian Agler about that, yet?
Smith: Yeah, I told him I’d like to play, again, so…they’ve got to figure out who, what, salary cap, that, this. You know, they (Storm president and CEO Karen Bryant, Agler, and the ownership group) have a lot of decisions and things they need to worry about. When the time comes, I know Brian and enjoy playing for him. I think he likes what I bring to the team, but there’s a lot of other factors that go into things. We’ll see how that all plays out down the road. There’s a lot of other things they have to worry about before me. They’ll take care of it.
Q: But he didn’t tell you to hang it up, though?
Smith: No, he’d be happy to have me, again.
Q: I know, but one of things I wanted to ask was that with getting older — especially since Brian tends to like veterans — how do you explain that philosophy and its benefits? Particularly since it seems time for the franchise to take a bump and get younger for the betterment of the future.
Smith: Yeah, but it’s just their choice. Yeah, you could take a bump. He could have taken a bump this year, but it’s just a choice. You either do it or you don’t. Their core is at a good place because they’re sort of middle-aged, I suppose, in basketball age. You’ve just got to figure out the pieces, You’ve got a good draft pick this year (No. 6 in 2013). Then you just work with it — do we, do we not? Who can we get? It’s not always, ‘Hey, this is what we want.’ It isn’t like you just go pick people off the street. People are under contract, people that you want you may not want to lock them in. Maybe it’s not worth that money. There’s a lot of factors that go into it. And maybe there’s a young free agent. There are so many scenarios and pieces that go into their final roster. Money. How many years. It’s a tough (decision). But, at the end of the day, you have to say, ‘This is what we’re doing. We’re going to take some bumps and get some young ones, maybe they’ll pan out, maybe they won’t.’
Q: Yes, it’s all a gamble. But that last game, you guys looked like that Hall of Fame team and it was really impressive. Maybe vets are a good idea?
Smith: It would be fun to have that team maybe all year. Maybe even for the whole second half of the season. It would be great to have everybody feeling great. But that’s the nature of the beast. We battled. We gave ourselves a shot. Sure, a couple more plays here and there — we put ourselves in a great position to win that series. Did not, but sure, it’d be nice if everybody was feeling 100 percent. We would have had more time with each other, but it was still fun to compete and battle and play cat-and-mouse to try to figure out how to win that series. You know, only one person is happy at the end of the season. Ours was a little shorter than what we wanted. I don’t know, Seattle will have to figure out how they want to go and that’s exciting/nerve-racking because, like you said, any sport is kind of a gamble.
Q: You’ve been here for two years, how have you seen Camille Little develop?
Smith: She’s consistent. She plays hard. She’s a go-to. You know if you get her touches, especially on the block, she going to find a way to either get to the free-throw line or make tough, tough shots. She also can guard anybody. She’s agile, can keep up with a lot of people, so it’s really easy to switch (defense on opponents) with her. She can do a lot of things and is real versatile. It’s fun because she’s a gamer. Somebody that’s a competitor that you like and have confidence in when you give her the ball and on the defensive end. She knows what she’s doing.
Q: In games, do you think she’s valued enough in scouts from other teams?
Smith: It’s hard. I think she is, but you’re also looking at Sue Bird and Lauren (Jackson). You always have an emphasis on one or two. It’s not to say others are overlooked, but you have pieces and then you have to figure out or they’re going to tell you what everybody does. I don’t think she’s overlooked. I think people around the league, players, we all respect and know what people can do. Milli has kind of done that over the last few years. She’s been a huge part of the success of Seattle — from championship to now. So, I don’t think teams overlook, scouts are scouts. You try to take a couple of pieces away and then try to contain everybody. But when you have big names like (Sue and Lauren), it is what it is. You might not be as talked about, but it’s nice because you’re as important.
Q: Do you still handle your own contracts?
Smith: I have an attorney that’s been handling all of my stuff over the years since I got out of college (Ohio State). I talk to people (general managers). I’m not a kind of player who’s like, ‘Talk to my agent’ or ‘Talk to my attorney.’ I don’t mind (discussing) tell me what you’re feeling or this is what you can do. I don’t mind having that conversation with people. But if it gets to a point where I’m feeling I can’t or somebody needs to be the bad guy, I’ll tell (my attorney) to handle it. Most of the time it’s like yeah, we’ll have a conversation — where are you at, what are you thinking? I don’t have a problem initially talking to people.
Q: With your new internship, are you still going to be able to fit in being a grad assistant with the Buckeyes’ women’s basketball team?
Smith: Yeah, as much as I can. I probably won’t be there every day at practice because they have some during the day and then they have some later. For some of the games I’ll probably travel and try to go to as many at home. But they have four coaches. I’m not necessarily a ‘coach,’ I’m a grad assistant. I do some of the behind-the-scenes work. I’m really just like a mentor for the kids. If it’s one-on-one work, or if they want to know something, they ask. I’ll rebound for them while they shoot, you know, it’s stuff like that that I’ll do. I’ve know the kids, obviously, for a long time. I’ve been there and you’re able to talk to them, joke with them and talk to them about the next level (WNBA), what it takes. For me, I get to affect them in a different way. I get to see Tayler Hill, this will be her senior year, and I’ve been able to see her grow. She’ll be in the league next year. It’s fun. It’s fun to put things in her head and help her. To say, ‘Hey, I don’t know how good you want to be, it’s up to you.’ There are little things that can help her game. To see her grow and keep maturing is fun. And it’s funny to see the kids grow up and then you play against them. So, my role as a coach is individually. I rebound and sit there and say something to them like, ‘You need to play defense and not relax. You’re better than most of these people and don’t dominate.’ I get in their ears about other things — supporting and mentoring. Somebody that’s been in their shoes at Ohio State and done some things in the basketball world but also in school. Staying attached to your university, using your contacts, trying to embrace your network. Not all are going to be doing this (going pro), it’s being able to take advantage of your whole opportunity. Don’t lose track of what you have and go off and get lost. Go Bucks!
Q: No, it’s Bear Down (Arizona).
Smith: Ha, well, we’re all the way over on the East Coast so it’s OK.
*PHOTO CREDIT: Storm guard Katie Smith at Media Day by The Associated Press