Smith makes Waves


POSTED: Friday, January 09, 2009

Whoever put together the Pepperdine women's basketball schedule this season, Taylor Smith says thank you.

The Kalaheo graduate and Waves senior spent the holidays home in Hawaii. After a game against Kansas on Dec. 23, the Waves didn't play again until the Jack in the Box Rainbow Wahine Classic on Jan. 2 in Hawaii, giving Smith a surprising holiday during the middle of her final collegiate season.

“;It was cool because I got to see my mom (in South Carolina) before (the trip), and then my dad was in Hawaii, so it's rare I get to see both,”; Smith said.

The time off seemed to do wonders for Smith, who enjoyed one of her best games of the season against the hometown Rainbow Wahine. Smith scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while chipping in three steals as Pepperdine defeated Hawaii 65-52.

“;I remember watching this same tournament in high school, and to come back and play in it one day was pretty cool,”; Smith said. “;Being back in the Stan Sheriff Center, where the high school state playoffs were at, was a lot of fun. It was the first time I got to play in front of family and friends in four years.”;

The 2005 Oahu Interscholastic Association player of the year has fought through injuries and inconsistent minutes to become one of the leaders on the Waves this season. Smith has started all 14 games, after starting only seven in her previous three seasons, and is one of four girls to have scored more than 100 points already.

She's second on the team in rebounds, first in free-throw percentage and third in 3-pointers made, showing the all-around game that made her one of the top players in the state under Chico Furtado at Kalaheo.

“;I think it's my first year that I've been fully healthy,”; Smith said. “;I just never really felt like I was 100 percent until this year. Plus it helps when you know you're going to play and know you're going to get a chance to be in the game.”;

Pepperdine lost in the tournament's final game to Colorado, but the four days in Hawaii gave Smith a chance to show her teammates around.

The highlight came when she and a teammate convinced three others to take an outrigger canoe ride in Waikiki, even though they didn't know how to swim.

“;It was hilarious—they were freaking out because they were scared of the water,”; Smith said. “;But it was a great time, a great way to bond with the team.”;

Smith is one of five seniors on the team looking to repeat the success of their freshman season, when they advanced to the NCAA tournament.

The Waves are 7-7 entering conference play this weekend, and part of their success hinges on the development of the younger players. Once a wide-eyed freshman, Smith remembers what it was like to be in their shoes, and uses that to help them along as best she can.

“;I know how hard it can be coming to a new place and not really knowing what you're getting into,”; Smith said. “;I'm trying to be one of those positive leaders, which is a role I haven't really had in the past.”;

But at the same time, the intercultural communication major always tries to keep things fun.

“;I want to make sure they're working hard, but also enjoying things,”; Smith said. “;Because that's the best way to do things.”;

It can be hard at times under vocal women's basketball coach Julie Rousseau, now in her fifth season.

The one-time interim head coach of the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks brings a professional coaching style to the collegiate level. She “;demands perfection,”; according to Smith, and isn't afraid to get in a player's face.

“;She's a screamer,”; Smith said. “;But she knows what it takes to play at the professional level, so she tries to fashion our practices and the way she handles us after that.”;

The daughter of a Navy commander, Smith has spent a lot of her life spanning the globe. With her college career winding down and Smith on schedule to graduate in May, she hopes to continue her worldwide travels once she's done in Malibu.

“;Make some money so I can travel,”; she said. “;I don't know how, but that's the plan.”;