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Smith Eligible For 2008 U.S. Olympic Committee SportsWoman Of The Year Award

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Dec. 29, 2008)   —  Katie Smith, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and co-captain of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team that captured the USA’s fourth consecutive gold medal, has been selected the 2008 USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year, USA Basketball today announced. As such, Smith will be nominated by USA Basketball for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Committee SportsWoman of the Year. The selection was made by the USA Basketball Board of Directors.

“This is a huge honor, it’s a surprise to me, but it’s very much appreciated,” said Smith. “There are so many bigger names, like Diana (Taurasi), Lisa (Leslie) winning her fourth gold, Tina (Thompson) putting up big numbers, it’s not that we’re not equal as players on the team, but in my career this kind of thing hasn’t happened a whole lot. I got what I wanted in a sense of being a part of those teams, winning gold medals and enjoying the overall experience. I love what I do and have enjoyed all my opportunities to represent USA Basketball.  Obviously people saw that I cared, that I worked hard, and I appreciate that. 
 
“What we always preach with USA Basketball is that it’s one team, one goal. It’s all about winning and doing whatever is needed, whether you play or don’t play, score or play defense. That’s what I tried to do throughout my USA Basketball days.

“This is a bonus and definitely a surprise, but very much appreciated. It’s neat to know that people do see what you do, the time you spend and the things you put into it. It’s not always about the flashy highlights, it’s the grunt work and a lot of us do that, from the players to the coaches and the staff. A lot of grunt work goes into what we do to be successful and it makes you feel good that people notice.”

“Katie is such a good person to win this award because her commitment to the USA Basketball Women’s National Team Program has been superior,” said U.S. Olympic Team head coach Anne Donovan. “Nobody matched her level of commitment to our training throughout the three years since Athens. Her leadership, experience and what she did for us as a starter in Beijing speaks volumes for Katie’s abilities. But more than anything, it’s important that we recognize her commitment to us, and I’m proud of her for that. She’s had a tremendous year, she was the MVP of the Detroit Shock’s championship and now to be our Player of the Year really reflects Katie’s greatness, which has often gone unnoticed.”

“Katie’s time and commitment to USA Basketball has been extraordinary throughout the years,” said USA Basketball Executive Director Jim Tooley. “She leads by example, putting in a lot of time and energy on the practice court and does whatever is asked of her by coaches and teammates.  Katie is very deserving of this award as her leadership and will to win played a key role in USA Basketball bringing home the gold from Beijing.”

“I’m excited for Katie,” said two-time Olympic gold medalist Tamika Catchings. “She put so much time and effort into USA Basketball and this team. I think she was there for every single session that we had and never once complained about anything that was asked of her. A lot of times people who work so hard don’t always get the credit that’s deserved. But for me, Katie evolved into a leader on this team. People really respected her. She’s always been respected as a player, the experience that she has, the talent that she has and the way she plays on the court definitely signifies a USA Basketball player. But she brings so much more to the table. Even at times when she was struggling on the court she always remained strong, always remained as a great captain and a great leader.”

The 5-11 guard was the only member of the 2008 team to participate in all of the 2008 USA Women’s National Team’s training camps. A three-time Olympic gold medalist, Smith, who averaged 4.9 points and 1.9 assists per game during the 2008 Olympics, brought much more to the team than just statistics. She’s shown an unrivaled commitment to the USA Basketball Women’s National Team Program, missing just one of the USA’s training camps over the past three years.

Smith, who owns a 10-year WNBA scoring average of 15.9 points per contest, was counted on to help the team in ways other than scoring, including taking charges, being a strong defender and keeping an overall steady hand in the game. The consummate teammate, Smith did all of that and whatever else was asked for the sake of one goal: winning the USA’s fourth consecutive Olympic gold. 

In addition to her Olympic contributions, Smith aided the USA Basketball Women’s National Team to the 2008 FIBA Diamond Ball gold medal and a 3-0 slate prior to the Olympics. Competing against Latvia and eventual Olympic bronze and silver medalists Russia and Australia, respectively, Smith averaged 5.7 ppg. and 1.7 apg.

She assisted the USA to a 4-2 mark and the silver medal at the 2008 Good Luck Beijing Tournament, where she posted 12.5 ppg. and 1.5 apg.; and was also on hand to help the USA to a 2-0 mark in its 2008 Spain training, averaging 9.0 ppg., 5.0 rpg. and 2.0 apg.

One of only eight USA Basketball athletes (Donovan, Teresa Edwards, Lisa Leslie, Katrina McClain, David Robinson, Dawn Staley, Sheryl Swoopes) to be named to at least three Olympic teams, Smith has also been a member of two gold-medal winning and one bronze-medal winning USA World Championship squads and is one of only eight USA Basketball athletes (Jennifer Azzi, Edwards, Leslie, McClain, DeLisha Milton-Jones, Staley, Swoopes) to compete in three Worlds.

First donning a USA Basketball uniform in 1993 following her freshman season and a NCAA Final Four appearance with The Ohio State University Buckeyes, Smith has earned 12 gold medals, four silver medals and one bronze medal over the past 15 summers. In addition to her trio of Olympic gold medals, two FIBA World Championship golds and one World Championship bronze medal; Smith owns gold medals from the 2008 FIBA Diamond Ball Tournament, 2007 FIBA Americas Championship, 2002 and 2006 Opals World Challenge, 1999 U.S. Olympic Cup, 1996 R. William Jones Cup and 1994 Goodwill Games; while earning silver medals at the 2008 Good Luck Beijing Tournament, 2007 FIBA World League Tournament, 1997 World Championship Qualifying Tournament and 1995 World University Games.

Smith returned from the Olympics and capped her memorable year by earning the 2008 WNBA Finals MVP award after helping lead the Detroit Shock to the 2008 title. Smith, who averaged 15.3 points a game, 4.0 rebounds a game and 2.4 assists a game throughout the playoffs, upped her averages to 21.7 ppg. and 3.3 apg. during the Shock’s sweep of San Antonio in the Finals.

Smith, who also won a WNBA title with the Shock in 2006 and a pair of ABL championships with the Columbus Quest, currently stands as the all-time leading scorer in USA women’s professional basketball history with 6,510 points. Through the 2008 season, Smith ranks third among the WNBA’s all-time leaders for points (5,077), 12th for points averaged (15.9 ppg.), 10th for assists (895) and 11th for free throw percentage (.861).

In its 29th year, the USA Basketball Athlete of the Year has been earned by notable athletes such as Candice Wiggins (2007), Diana Taurasi (2006), Crystal Langhorne (2005), Dawn Staley (2004, 1994), Seimone Augustus (2003), Lisa Leslie (2002, 1993), Ayana Walker (2001), Teresa Edwards (2000, 1996, 1990, 1987), Natalie Williams (1999), Lisa Leslie (1998), Chamique Holdsclaw (1997), Sylvia Crawley (1995), Katrina McClain (1992, 1988), Ruthie Bolton (1991), Venus Lacey (1989), Jennifer Gillom (1985), Cheryl Miller (1986, 1984), Lynette Woodard (1983), Cindy Noble (1982 co-recipient), LaTaunya Pollard (1982 co-recipient), Denise Curry (1981), and Carol Blazejowski (1980).

Release courtesy of USA Basketball