UPPER ARLINGTON, Ohio (WCMH) — Imagine being a high school player and learning from a three-time gold medalist. That’s exactly what the girls basketball team at Upper Arlington is getting.
Former Buckeye great and WNBA coach Katie Smith is volunteering with the Golden Bears this season. It’s her first time on a high school team since her playing days at Logan.
“I’m just an assistant coach with all the others and some days I can’t be here because of my other job.”
That other job? Associate head coach of the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx.
“I thought it was crazy that she wanted to come,” UA senior Alyssa Gest said.
“I was like there’s no way. Like there’s no way,” UA junior Ceylone Brooks said.
As a player, Smith won three Olympic gold medals, 2 WNBA titles and is a first ballot hall of famer.
“I loved playing [basketball]. I loved being around it. It’s given me some of my best highlights, it’s given me my best friends,” Smith said. “I want them to have the same memories about being a part of a team and basketball, so they can take that wherever that goes in their lives.”
Last year during the WNBA’s 25th season, Smith was voted a top 25 player of all time, but you wouldn’t know it by just talking with her.
“She’s so humble that whenever you mention something about her accomplishments she just brushes it off like it’s nothing,” Gest said.
The Golden Bears are led by first-year head coach and longtime boys assistant John Wanke who welcomed the opportunity to have Smith on his coaching staff.
“For me, she’s been an amazing coach, she’s been an amazing addition but more importantly I think her humility, the way that she approaches things in a very humble way just speaks volumes to her as a person and we’re really blessed to have here,” Wanke said.
But why is Smith at Upper Arlington?
“There’s a love right? There’s a passion for what you do,” Smith said. “It really brings you a lot of energy. We give them stuff, but I tell you they give it 10 fold back.”
The Golden Bears only won a few games last year but are 12-7 this year and are guaranteed a winning season with four games left in the regular season.