HAWAII GROWN REPORT
COURTESY PEPPERDINE UNIVERSITY
Kalaheo graduate Taylor Smith calls Hawaii home despite living in Rhode Island and California.
Smith wants to make waves
Taylor Smith has called so many places home, she had to pause a moment before naming them all.
"I've lived a few years in Japan and a few years in Spain," Smith said. "Then there's Rhode Island and California. Oh, and of course, Hawaii."
» College: Pepperdine
» Class: Junior
» Position: G/F
» High school: Kalaheo (2005)
» Honors: 2005 Star Bulletin Fab 15 selection; '05 OIA player of the year
The 50th state came last on her list, but is first in her heart.
"Hawaii's my home, though," she said. "As far as living goes, there's no better place."
Malibu, Calif., is the current residence for the 2005 Kalaheo graduate who is a junior at Pepperdine.
The '05 Star-Bulletin Fab 15 selection in girls' basketball has overcome surgery on her ankle to work her way back onto the court this season.
Nearly two years ago, Smith suffered a badly sprained ankle that she assumed would heal over time. The pain only continued to get worse, and after struggling through her sophomore year, she finally had a magnetic resonance imaging on it that revealed ligament damage.
She underwent surgery for the first time in her life in September.
"I was pretty not excited about it, but I was ready to get rid of the pain," she said. "I was dealing with it for two years and was anxious to just get it over with."
Smith missed the Waves' first nine games, but has steadily increased her minutes since returning last month.
Although she only played five minutes last night, Pepperdine did snap an eight-game losing streak when downing St. Mary's 80-67. It was the Waves' first home game in nine contests dating back to Dec. 7.
Two key starters have been hurt, but senior guard Shannon Johnson did play last night.
"Anytime you lose a senior captain at point guard, it's tough," Smith said. "We have the talent. That's the frustrating part."
Smith has averaged three points and just over two rebounds in 16 minutes since returning, but played a season-high 32 minutes in their last road game against Portland.
She was just 1-for-5 from the floor and has struggled with her shot, but showed her all-around game with five rebounds, four assists and four steals.
"Basketball-wise, I'm still trying to work the rust off, but the ankle feels great," she said. "It's just a matter of getting back into the swing of things."
SMITH's father is in the Navy, so her life has been a worldwide tour. It continued last summer with a study abroad visit to Europe for two months.
The intercultural communications major took a humanities and Italian class in Florence. Four days a week were devoted to school, but every weekend was three days, allowing Smith and teammate Jessica Ross to travel to places such as Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Greece and Turkey.
"It was nice to forget about basketball for two months and see the world," she said. "Obviously basketball is a job, and it takes up your entire life pretty much from the day you get to school until the day you leave. (The trip) helped me refocus and get that spark I need."
Smith is a self-described outdoors person who loves to experience new things, making her two-month voyage across the European continent one she'll never forget.
Her time there included a whitewater rafting trip in the Swiss Alps, a cruise through the Greek Islands and spelunking in salt mines in Austria.
Given that Smith is a foreigner, her trip didn't come without some unexpected surprises. She and Ross took a gondola lift 30,000 feet up the famous Matterhorn in the Alps. It was raining on the ground, and the thought that there might be a weather change that high in altitude never crossed either's mind.
"I had a T-shirt and a poncho on and when we finally got off the lift, it was a complete white-out blizzard like you wouldn't believe," Smith said. "I guess we weren't very prepared."
Smith is revitalized and ready to go, her attention focused on helping the Waves get back to a level of success she enjoyed during her first two seasons.
Smith helped Pepperdine knock off a Rutgers squad last year that eventually played for the national championship.
In her first year on the team, Pepperdine won the West Coast Conference title and played in the NCAA tournament against Oklahoma and All-American Courtney Paris, whom Smith found herself matched up against in the post.
"She's a big mama," Smith recalled. "There was nothing I could do against her, but it was a fun game."
She has started in just five of 57 games played at Pepperdine and has scored in double figures five times. With a year and a half of eligibility remaining, she still has time to accomplish some of the goals she has set for herself.
"Obviously I want a bigger role on the team than I have had in the past," she said. "Hopefully, things continue how they are going."