Sitting Down With Charlotte Smith

April, 25 2006
Charlotte Smith, a seven-year WNBA veteran, is entering her first season with the Fever following stints in Charlotte and Washington. The former University of North Carolina standout led the Tar Heels to a National Championship in 1994 before becoming the only UNC women’s basketball player to have her jersey retired. Smith recently sat down with to discuss her basketball career as she prepares for her first season in Indiana.
Q: You’re entering your first season with the Fever. I know you’ve only been here a few days, but what are your early impressions of the city of Indianapolis?
A: “I love the city. I’ve been here numerous times as a visiting player, playing in the WNBA, and I’ve been here for the Women’s Final Four. I love it. I think it’s great. For me, it’s very comfortable. It’s not too big and it’s not too small. The size of the city is perfect. I was in Washington last year, which was a little too fast-paced for me.”
Q: How has the transition been for you coming in to Fever camp as a new player? Is it difficult at all, or do you find it easy to become comfortable in your new surroundings?
A: “For me it’s a pretty easy transition. I was in the same situation last year in Washington joining a new team. But I’ve been in the league for so long that I know most of the players across the WNBA. So, it’s a very comfortable transition for me.”
Q: Have you developed friendships with different players around the league during your time in the WNBA?
A: “I’ve developed strong relationships with a lot of players over the years mostly through USA basketball, which I did many moons ago. Just with different players being shuffled in and out of franchises, you have a lot of teammates and meet a lot of different people.”
Q: You’ve played basketball both here in the United States as well as overseas. What, if any, differences have you encountered with the style of play?
A: “Overseas is different. Over there you can only have a certain number of foreign players on the team. And for the most part, as an American, you are the go-to player. When you are playing here in the WNBA you have a bulk of talent on each team. Obviously in the WNBA you have go-to players as well, but I think in this league we play with more of a team concept. Overseas, you have to be the one to score and you have to be the one to get the job done. If you do, great; if not, you feel like the blame is put on your shoulders. So, there’s quite a bit of pressure playing overseas.”
Q: Is there a life-style change for you when you are away from home playing in a foreign country?
A: “There’s most definitely a life-style change. But I think a lot of it depends on where you are geographically overseas. A lot of people go play overseas and don’t have to make many adjustments because everything is so Americanized. In certain countries there’s every American restaurant you can imagine and really a lot of Americans living there. That makes the transition a lot easier and can make for a good experience. For some players, it’s a bad experience because of the culture barriers and language barriers. Or, maybe they don’t like the food. So, you just have to find a situation that’s comfortable for you.”
Q: You’re entering your eighth year in the league. How has the WNBA changed from when you first came into the league to where it presently is?
A: “I think the league definitely has more talent than it ever has before. Through the years new players have come in the league, fresh faces continue to lift the game and make it more and more competitive. It’s been great to see it grow over the years and become more competitive. I think the league growing has generated more excitement and energy because it has developed into such a competitive game.”
Q: While at UNC, you were the second female collegiate player to ever dunk in a game. Does that mean anything to you, or do you not see it as a very big deal?
A: “Maybe I’m just humble to a fault with some of the things that I’ve accomplished. I haven’t made a big deal with some things I have done, but some people are really taken back by some things you do on the court. But it was a goal of mine coming out of high school. At the time I didn’t know anyone had dunked in a college game until afterwards when someone told me I was only the second player to do so. At that moment it felt really great.”
Q: There are three players currently in camp with the Fever, now your teammates (Nikita Bell, Coretta Brown, La’Tangela Atkinson), who you have recently coached while serving as an assistant at the University of North Carolina. Describe what that’s like for you.
A: “I told the girls that I have to try and change modes. The first day of camp I was rebounding for them, passing the ball to them and starting to coach them. Then I said to myself, ‘Okay, I’ve got to change modes here. I have to get out here shoot myself, get warmed up and ready to go.’ But, it actually is really great. I think it also keeps me on my toes as far as coaching goes because I’m not just a new player trying to learn the system. I’m trying to learn the system so I can help my teammates along.”
Q: What to you typically like to do with your free time when you aren’t playing or coaching?
A: “I love music. I have been working on my music for the past two summers. I have this huge keyboard that I carry around with me basically everywhere I go. That was the first thing I packed before I left for Washington and it was the first thing I packed before I came here to Indiana. I have to have it with me. So, I just spend a lot of my free time working on music. My goal is to have a gospel album out in the next year or two. One of my teammates [Olympia Scott] introduced me to someone in the business here in Indianapolis, so I was excited to get here. I think I have talent as far as hearing the music and writing the music. All I need now is someone to help me put it all together. I would love to one day work in the music industry full time. I’m staring out now, because what better foundation is there for my music than a WNBA fan-base?”
Q: Are you a movie person or a television person?
A: “Probably a television person. Because, I figure I pay a cable bill, so why not enjoy my television instead of paying my cable bill and then going out to pay for a movie. I like sitcoms. I watch “Girlfriends.” That’s one of my favorites. And I watch TBN [Trinity Broadcasting Network]. They have a lot of great ministers on there and tremendous gospel artists, so I like to listen to their music when I have time.”
Q: What would you consider to be your favorite food?
A: “I would say Italian because I spent two years playing overseas in Italy. I fell in love with the food to a fault. It’s so good. It will make you hate Italian restaurants back in the states. You’ll be like, ‘This isn’t authentic!’”
Q: What is your earliest basketball memory?
A: “My earliest memory would probably be watching my brothers play in a rec league and wanting to play, but not being able to because I was a girl. At the time, I never really challenged it. Later on I wondered why I never challenged it, because I always played with my brothers in the back yard. I should have known I was good enough to play in the rec league with them.”
Q: When you were growing up whom or what inspired you?
A: “My parents were a huge inspiration for me. As well as my uncle, David Thompson, who played in the NBA. I can remember every Sunday going down to my grandmother’s house when NBA games were on TV, we’d sit down and watch my uncle David play. One of my greatest childhood memories was having my uncle David come home and play HORSE and PIG with us once the NBA season was over. He’d have us to drills, as well. He would have me, my brothers and cousins all do wall sits to see how long we could last. For us, we were just playing not knowing it was building our quads and giving us a great workout.”