On the day that would decide her future, outgoing Michigan
women’s basketball senior Jennifer Smith was at her
boyfriend’s baseball game, waiting anxiously for the phone
Smith’s cell phone finally rang on Saturday afternoon
— it was former teammate Rachel Cortis.
Smith’s dream had come true.
The defending WNBA champion Detroit Shock selected Smith, a
Lansing native, in the third round (32nd overall) of the 2004 WNBA
“When people would say, ‘What if you got picked up
by the Shock?,’ I was like, ‘No way. That would be
impossible because that would be too perfect,’ ” Smith
said. “It really is a perfect situation. It’s
incredible that I’m playing for such a good team.”
With almost every player returning from last year’s 2003
championship team, Smith’s chances of making the
Shock’s final roster are debatable. At 6-foot-4, Smith played
primarily center and forward in her career at Michigan. Shock coach
Bill Laimbeer is looking to fill spots at center and power forward,
and he intends to fill team needs through the draft rather than
free agency or trades.
Smith was the fourth player selected in the draft by the Shock.
Detroit selected Iciss Tillis from Duke with its 11th pick along
with Purdue teammates Shereka Wright and Erika Valek with the 13th
and 23rd picks overall. Moments later, the Shock traded Wright and
Valek to the Phoenix Mercury for the eighth pick, guard Chandi
Jones. But Smith is pretty sure she will remain with the Shock.
“(The Shock) called today and wanted to get my jersey
number, so I’m pretty confident that I’ll stick
there,” Smith said. “But I know I’ll just have to
work really hard and prove to them that I belong there.”
Smith set Michigan’s all-time single-season scoring record
with 659 points this season, an average of 21.3 points per game
that made her the Big Ten Scoring Champion. She earned the Prestige
Award — Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett’s version of Most
Valuable Player — for her efforts as a Wolverine this season.
She ranks second on Michigan’s career scoring list with 1,714
points, trailing just Diane Dietz (1978-82), who totaled 2,066
“Nobody is more deserving of this than Jennifer
Smith,” Burnett said. “She was unbelievable for us this
season and posted mind-boggling numbers when you consider our
opponents threw a variety of defenses at her this season, including
double and triple teams. She worked extremely hard in the offseason
and was rewarded with one of the best seasons any Michigan player
has put together on both the offensive and defensive ends of the
Smith is Michigan’s fifth WNBA draftee in the past seven
years. She joins former Wolverines Pollyanna Johns, Stacey Thomas,
Anne Thorius and Alayne Ingram. Thomas won a title with the Detroit
Shock last season.
“I’m as excited as I could possibly get,” said
Smith as she anticipated Laimbeer’s congratulatory phone
call. “This is probably the best situation that I thought I
could be in.”