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Spotlight on: Alanna Smith
April 21, 2015

Meet the Smiths – Alanna Smith’s parents full of praise for their daughter heading to Stanford.

Melbourne-based forward Alanna Smith (Class of 2015) grew up in a household familiar to the rigors and blessings related to professional basketball. With a commitment to Stanford University, and her time in a Cardinal uniform approaching fast, Smith looks to one day bring professional basketball back into her family circle.

Smith became interested in the game at a fairly early age. “Looking back now, my Dad was the main reason why I chose to play basketball. I grew up watching my Dad play and loved every second of it. I look up to him so much and having him as my own personal coach has helped me improve my game out of sight.” Smith’s father is Darren Smith, the veteran NBL and SEABL player, with three conference championships under his belt.

As Alanna prepares for her upcoming career at one of the preeminent universities in the United States, Smith has maintained a schedule built around hard work, a quality her father is also known for. Steady focus and training has brought her to this point in her career. “Generally, I train three to four hours a day from Monday to Friday, then Saturdays an hour and a half. I don’t follow a special diet I just aim to eat as healthy as I can and make sure I provide my body with the fuel to keep running,” Smith shared.

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Alanna is all smiles after winning Gold in the U20s Championship in Dandenong, 2015, despite suffering a broken nose during the tournament.

Smith continued, “I think for me, it’s the motivation to get better. I have had a lot of injuries in the past, so now I’m healthy and able to get out on court I want to make the most of it and strive to be the best I can be.”

Like many skilled and aspiring hoopers in Australia, Smith, a talented post player, has been developing her game at the Centre of Excellence and described the experience. “It’s an awesome environment to live in, everyone around you is there to train and work hard and it helps you push yourself to train harder. I have access to great coaches and great facilities and I am so thankful for the opportunity. I guess a downside for me is being away from home, but I’m definitely getting used to it.”

Smith’s basketball journey has not been all roses, despite her successes, there have been stretches that have been difficult, especially when she suffered a back injury. Ever positive, Smith found the bright side as usual. “I was devastated when I first found out about my back injury, but I feel as though that injury and time out from playing and training helped me develop a determination to make the most of the time I have on court. It definitely made me more aware of my body and the importance of recovery and rest as well.”

For Smith, her basketball journey would not be complete without the support of her parents, who interestingly enough met through a basketball connection. Smith’s mother Simone described meeting her husband for the first time, “I first met Darren after one of his first games in the NBL, playing for the Hobart Devils. My sister Jo played for the Tasmanian WNBL team and I was introduced through her. He was very young then, around 19, but we connected straight away. A little over two years later we were married.”

Smith’s father Darren enjoyed a rewarding professional basketball career, before moving into management. He is now CEO of Red Dust Role Models, an organisation that promotes health in remote Indigenous communities. “I can’t tell you how good it makes me feel. I am so proud of what she has achieved and excited for what the future holds for Alanna. I am enjoying her journey so much and if she works hard and has the opportunity to be a pro, then that is something that we can share and I can hopefully help her with,” Darren said.

The future is bright indeed for Alanna, but first the family had to get through the recruitment process. According to Alanna, the recruiting process was an adventurous one. “I was proactive early with recruitment, I sent out an introduction pack about myself including game footage and a bio and school results to several schools. I was fortunate enough to have a lot of schools show initial interest and touch base with information and it was difficult to filter through all the schools and all the information.” Alanna went on to say that she managed to narrow it down to just three schools, Wake Forest, Texas and Stanford. “I really liked the recruitment process, but it was also a little frustrating as I was getting calls three or four times a week during exam periods at school.”

Her parents shared their thoughts on the experience as well, “The recruiting process was a bit crazy to start with. Alanna would receive 2-3 letters from interested schools every day and it soon became clear we would need to help her organize and prioritize what she wanted. Eventually we created a ranking system that helped Alanna establish her top choices. From there Alanna, Simone and I visited her top three schools which was a great way to compare the opportunities a little better.”

It was incredibly helpful visiting schools and seeing firsthand what they had to offer. I loved meeting the athletes from the different colleges and being able to see how they live their day to day lives and also being able to talk to the coaches and find out about the college style game. It was a hard decision to make between those three schools and I asked other Australian athletes already attending college and made a list of the top schools I would like to go to. Stanford was at the top of that list, with their strength in not only basketball but academics as well.” Darren and Simone left the decision in Smith’s hands. Darren continues, “in the end, Alanna decided that Stanford was the best fit for her and we couldn’t be happier with her decision.”

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Alanna Smith represented Australia in the U17 and U19 teams.

Darren shared, “my biggest piece of advice for Alanna is that she will need to ‘embrace the grind.’ Being away in different parts of the world, away from family and familiar things can make it tough, but to be great at something you need to keep working hard regardless of your environment – even when you don’t want to. It will also be important to identify those people in and around your team that can help you reach your goals. No one gets there by themselves.”

Both parents added, “our greatest wish for Alanna is that she remains confident about who she is and continues to use her gifts and talents to the best of her ability, always being considerate and kind toward others. We hope that she will never lose her zest for life and cheeky sense of humor.  We wish her great success with her basketball career, and studies, and an extra measure of resilience to face the challenges that life throws her way.”

As far as Alanna’s short term goals go, she hopes to be a positive addition at Stanford first. “I’m aiming to make an impact at Stanford and be a presence on court. I’m also wanting to develop my outside game and hopefully be able to play out on the perimeter as well as in the paint.”

Alanna concluded with her long term ambitions, “my ultimate goal is to represent my country at an Olympics. I have loved wearing the green and gold for U17 and U19 teams, and it would be amazing if I could do that at an Olympics.”

There is no doubt Smith and her parents have put together a recipe for success, and as Smith continues her career with the Cardinals, the whole Smith family will undoubtedly remain focused on helping her achieve her goals.

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