Feb. 1, 2001
Adversity would be the best word to describe what Washington State senior Joanna Smith has been through the last few years.
As a freshman on the 1996-97 WSU squad, the North Vancouver, B.C., native set the school record by hitting 68 three-point field goals and was named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman Team. Then everything changed prior to her sophomore season.
"Everything went right my freshman year and then everything went wrong my sophomore season," Smith said. "It started with appendicitis in the preseason, and I was out two weeks. When I came back, I got a stress fracture in my right foot. That put me out another six weeks. I just never fully recovered in terms of playing to my potential. The year never turned out to be very good for me personally or the team."
It's always hard to come back from injuries, especially in the preseason. Smith returned to the team and still managed to lead the team with 39 treys. But her health problems were far from over.
"Going into my junior season, I got another stress fracture," Smith said. "I didn't want to deal with another season like my sophomore year, so I decided to redshirt. Rather than staying in Pullman and not playing, I decided to go back home and take a semester off.
Smith came back last season and played 20 games for the Cougars, and this season she was instrumental in the Cougars' upset of #18 Oregon. She came off the bench and connected on three three-pointers, the last of which came with 17 seconds remaining and put the Ducks away for good. Smith's three treys against Oregon tied her with Heather Gores (Norman) as the career leader on the school list with 133 buckets from downtown. The coaching staff is proud of Smith's dedication, and her role as the team's three-point specialist has not changed over the years.
"Joanna's role this year is three-point shooting," coach Jenny Przekwas said. "Not just shooting, but making the big baskets. I think that she has adapted to that role and is learning to come off the bench cold. She's always ready to shoot the ball. She competes very hard. She doesn't just throw it up, but she puts everything she has into making the shots."
Smith spent countless hours in the gym during the preseason, and although her playing time is down, she has never been happier.
"I'm really glad I came back," Smith said with a glowing smile. "I feel like this team can do anything. We're so good when we play together, and we feel we can beat anybody. But at the same time, we don't play on the same page in some games and we could lose to any team. We need to work on being consistent and playing as a team. I feel we've done a good job this season."
The Cougars are playing inspired ball this year under Przekwas, and while Smith is setting records, WSU is looking to return to the days of having a winning program.
"It's cool to have the three-point record," Smith said nonchalantly. "I get discouraged when I don't get to play but I am more excited about the fact that our team is winning this year. I broke the single-season record as a freshman, but we didn't win very many games. I would rather have a lesser role in terms of minutes and have our team win."
The perfect team player, Smith is respected by teammates and coaches alike.
"We focus on setting screens for her," Przekwas said. "Other teams aren't aware of her until after she hits one. She runs the baseline well, and I think the baseline three is probably her favorite. I expect her to be ready to shoot the ball and shoot a good percentage. She's not out there for defensive purposes, but she still plays sound defense on the other end. The defensive end is important, but she's in the game to shoot three pointers."
Shooting from long range is Smith's specialty, and it might also be part of her future plans.
"I would like to play in Europe," said the English major. "If that doesn't work out, I might go back to school and go into education."
An ideal team player who has dealt with more than her fair share of ups and downs, Joanna Smith should have no problems wherever the road of life of takes her.
By Mike Kreiger, WSU Sports Information