By SCOTT WILSON
Glasgow Daily Times
The smile was big across Shalika Smith’s face Wednesday morning as she signed her national letter of intent to play basketball next year at Western Kentucky University. And as her family, friends, teammates and school staff congratulated her for reaching a big milestone in her life, the Glasgow High School senior took time to take it all in.
All the lifting of weights, the miles run, the hours of practice, they were all worth it now. The hard work had all finally paid off for the Lady Scottie senior standout as she had reached a long-time goal by signing to play Division I college basketball.
“Over the summer I talked to all of the coaches at Western and they were great people to talk to,” said Smith. “However, I seriously considered going to Murray State, Georgetown and Morehead State. They were also all friendly and nice to talk to.
“But when I had a chance to see the Lady Toppers in action and get introduced to the coaches, I felt a real connection with them. They were all really nice and I bonded with the girls.”
“As a coach, you’re happy for your players to have this opportunity,” said Glasgow coach Justin Stinson. “Our players are like a part of our family. You’ve seen them work hard to get to this point and they’re so deserving. In Shalika’s case, a chance to play Division I basketball, that’s a huge accomplishment and we’re thrilled for her.
“There is no doubt Shalika has Division I ability; however, she’s earned it. She has worked incredibly hard, gotten in shape and has improved her game. All of the credit goes to Shalika. She has God-given ability, but she’s worked hard and has earned the right to get to this point of her career.”
And the career has been pretty impressive. Smith has led the Lady Scotties to an 84-34 record over four years, to the program’s first regional title, in 2012, and to the team’s single-season record in wins at 28.
For her career, Smith has scored 1,083 points and has grabbed 850 rebounds. She has also been very solid from the floor, shooting 54.7 percent, the best in school history. Last year as a junior, she averaged 14.5 points and 8.3 rebounds a contest, while shooting a blistering 67.9 percent from the field. Her effort earned her a spot on the prestigious Kentucky Junior All-Star Team.
And those numbers certainly brought Smith to the attention of Western Kentucky University coach Michelle Clark-Heard.
In addition to Smith, the Lady Toppers signed three other players during Wednesday’s early signing period. Joining Smith in the class of 2018 were Ivy Brown of Hodgenville, Javieonna Norris of Chicago Heights, Ill, and Tashia Brown of Lake Park, Ga.
“The excitement and progress we are making towards winning championships and being a team that can advance in the NCAA Tournament was seen by these players and they bought into the family we are building here at WKU,” said Clark-Heard in a release. “I am excited to officially welcome these players into our WKU family.
“Shalika Smith is an energetic, pure post player. She is high energy all the time and has a great competitive drive. She is a tremendous rebounder and will bring great intensity to practice every day as our depth at the post position works to get better and compete for playing time on the court.”
Smith is believed to be the first Lady Scottie to sign a Division I women’s basketball letter of intent.
Two other former Lady Scotties, Alicia Polson and Lisa Witty, were walk-ons at Division 1 programs. Polson played at WKU and later earned an athletic scholarship. Witty tried basketball at Vanderbilt University, but later transferred to the University of Louisville and competed in track.
Several other former Lady Scotties, including present GHS assistant athletic director Becky Kingery, played college basketball at other levels.
Now, Smith can focus on her final season with the Lady Scotties and then prepare her game for the rigors of college basketball.
“I am still getting myself physically and mentally ready to play next year (in college). I need to work on finishing shots and playing through contact,” Smith said. “I am a bit nervous, but it is an excited nervous feeling to get to play with a group of girls that will make myself stronger, and the team as a whole.”
Smith said she realizes she has a lot of people to thank for supporting her and helping her reach such a milestone in her life.
“I would like to first thank God for blessing me with this talent and skill,” Smith said, “and to my coaches for pushing me to (reach) the best of my abilities. I want to thank my friends and family for being my motivators and being there for me every step of the way.”