Oct. 18, 2012
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Nicole Smith is a firm believer in the saying, “everything happens for a reason.” That’s the best way to describe how she ended up on the University of Iowa women’s basketball team.
Smith, a 6-foot-4 post player from Rockton, Ill., enjoyed early success as a high school basketball player and had Division I offers to choose from. Lisa Bluder and the Hawkeyes showed interest during Smith’s sophomore season, and she felt an instant connection with the coaching staff.
“I really liked how close the coaches were as a group,” Smith said. “I also liked the fact they have been coaching together for so long. The team seemed to be a really close group, too. I liked the feeling I had when I was on campus.”
Just like many other college recruit, Smith entertained multiple offers. Her mother attended Wisconsin and Smith fell in love with Madison. When it came time to make a decision, Smith initially chose red and white over the black and gold, but she still had the feeling of respect toward the Iowa program.
“My mom went to Wisconsin, and I felt comfortable on the campus,” Smith said. “In terms of basketball, I still felt Iowa might have been a little bit better fit for me.”
After she made her decision, the Wisconsin coaching staff was let go and a new coaching staff took over. Smith re-evaluated her choice and decided it was in her best interest to look elsewhere.
“Once the coaching change at Wisconsin happened, I asked for a release from my commitment,” Smith said. “I didn’t know if Division I basketball would be an option for me after making that decision.”
During Smith’s junior year of high school, her AAU coach received a call from Iowa. She was more than willing to give Bluder a verbal commitment.
“I came to Iowa’s summer camp and committed to be a Hawkeye,” Smith said. “It was a huge relief when coach Bluder offered. Committing to a program that I liked so much was awesome.”
Coaching changes at one school led Smith to Iowa. Becoming a Hawkeye has helped her in more than one way.
During her senior season, Smith suffered a knee injury in late January. After a month of rehabilitation, Smith tried to get back on the court, but was still in pain. She had torn her left ACL approximately two years prior and doctors didn’t know what they would find in surgery this time around.
“I was expecting it to be a meniscus when I went in for surgery, but the doctor had an ACL ready, just in case,” Smith said. “Once they got in to my knee, they found out it was an ACL. I received the news that it was actually my ACL when I woke up from surgery.”
Rehabbing an ACL for the second time is tough on an athlete, both mentally and physically. Choosing Iowa was even more of a blessing for Smith, as she had rehab partners who were going through the same situation. Senior Jaime Printy was on nearly the exact schedule for rehabilitation as Smith and fellow freshman Claire Till was coming back from a knee injury as well.
“Having Jaime and Claire along with me really helped the process,” Smith said. “We all encouraged each other and that made it much easier to go through a situation like that.”
With confidence in her decision to be a Hawkeye and a strong support group during rehabilitation, signs kept pointing that Smith was meant to be at Iowa. Now she can’t wait to take advantage of all of those reasons on the court.
“Right now I’m just trying to come back from the injury as quickly as possible,” Smith said. “I want to help the team in any way I can.”