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September 27, 2013
Another female basketball player in Hampton Roads has made a college commitment, one that has two seasons remaining before moving on to the next level. On Wednesday, Maury (Norfolk, VA) 5-foot-11 forward Gianna Smith, who's regarded as one of the Top 100 prospects nationally in the Class of 2015, gave a verbal pledge to Coach Karen Barefoot and the Old Dominion University Lady Monarchs in Conference USA.
Many of the reasons for Smith's decision were simple. The Lady Monarchs were the most persistent throughout the entire recruiting process and have been following her the longest.
"ODU has recruited me since my eighth grade year and has been there through all my good and bad games. No matter where I was, the staff was there to watch. I love them like a family. We've grown together over the years and that relationship we had couldn't be beat," Smith told VirginiaPreps.com.
"I love the coaching staff. They are people I truly care about and they keep it real. Coach Barefoot believed in me so much and supports me and I love how she's always energized. I love it because she teaches you to be a leader and to push and be a hard worker."
Smith also considered East Carolina, NC State and Elon and was hearing from such programs as Charlotte, George Mason, Iona, James Madison, Kentucky, VCU and Virginia Tech. She was named Second Team All-Eastern Region as a freshman and followed that up with a successful sophomore campaign, where she averaged 15.9 points per game en route to being named the Eastern District Offensive Player of the Year.
What also didn't hurt the Lady Monarchs' efforts to land Smith was her proximity to the campus. Smith can nearly walk to ODU from her house.
"I know I live up the street from ODU, but it never mattered to me if I was far or close to home. I love that it's up the street though and it's my hometown," Smith admitted. "In two years, I will hold down the 757 and represent Norfolk. I want to be unstoppable because of my hard work and devotion I put in."
In August, Barefoot received a two-year contract extension as Head Coach of the Lady Monarchs after two seasons at the helm. She went 11-21 in her debut season taking over for longtime Head Coach Wendy Larry, and then guided the team to a 19-12 finish in 2012-13 that included a bid to the Women's NIT.
ODU is looking for Smith to play in the backcourt, most likely at shooting guard. What stood out about Smith's game to the coaching staffs of the schools recruiting her?
"The fact that I can handle and shoot at my height," Smith answered. "I'm very passionate and work hard. Knowing how to beat my opponent is my strength I feel and being a smart teammate as well. I break it down as me seeing how the defender plays me or are they capable of checking me one-on-one straight up? I want to improve on being even more consistent with my game, though."
Last season, Maury posted a 21-6 overall record and made a return trip to the Eastern Region semifinals, where they were ousted by eventual region title winner Princess Anne. Most of their squad remains intact.
Smith's Maury teammate, 2015 guard Chanette Hicks, gave a verbal commitment over the summer to Virginia Tech, which hired their former Head Coach Jermaine Woods as an assistant coach during the off-season. What's the goal for them as juniors?
"For me and Chanette to come together and lead our team all the way, for us to work hard and defeat anyone in our way simply by staying on task and focused on the prize," she said.
Matthew Hatfield serves as State Basketball Analyst for VirginiaPreps.com, part of the Rivals.com Network. Check out Hatfield's Twitter page for more sports related updates, and you can also read his work in the Suffolk News Herald. To contact Matthew, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, and don't forget to listen to him every Saturday at 10AM on ESPN Radio 94.1, plus watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.
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