Trying to Keep up with Crystal Smith

By Andrew Nicholson,
Posted: June 2, 2006

Growing up in Haughton, Louisiana, playing basketball was something everyone in Crystal Smith’s family did.

“It has always been in my family,” the Mercury’s third-round draft pick said of basketball. “I think it was the first thing I was ever taught.”

Among her first memories is being given a basketball and told to go play in the backyard. And that is where the 5-6 cat-like quick guard honed her basketball skills. The shooting touch and defensive intensity she learned in her back yard would win up breaking high school, city, and collegiate records.

“I was a tom boy, so I played with all the guys, I never played with the girls,” Smith said of her youth. “Mostly just my brothers and my cousins would just go out and play in our backyard four to five hours a day.”

Smith was raised by her mom after her dad moved to Iowa to attend college. Although her dad moved away, he always kept in touch, but both of her parents went on to have separate families.

Smith had four brothers and sisters in Louisiana, and then when she would go visit her dad’s family in the summers she would have four brothers and sisters there as well.

“I got to see my dad’s kids grow up too,” she said of the two families. “I would go up there in the summer and play basketball.”

Before the Mercury drafted her with the 32nd overall pick, and before she went on to be a stellar offensive and defensive point guard for the University of Iowa, she made a name for herself in a small suburban town of Haughton, Louisiana.

“You could say that,” Smiths said of being the talk of the town growing up. “I was always in the newspaper.”

She was well-known for a reason. She averaged 26 points, five rebounds and five steals a game in her high school career. She also broke her high school record for points scored in a career and also broke the record of points scored in a career in the city, previously set by former Duke standout and current WNBA player, Alana Beard.

Although she enjoys having the records it isn’t something she spends time thinking about.

“I don’t care about the records, or the scoring, I just go out there and play,” Smith said.

“I never look at it like I (made the records). I look at it like my team helped me do it. I couldn’t have done it without my team.”

She was known in Haughton as a scorer, but she has always taken the most pride in her defense. In her senior season at Iowa, she was named to the All-Big Ten First Team as well as the Big-Ten’s All Defensive.

“Growing up people always looked to me to score and even in my last two years of college,” Smith said. “But I always take pride in my defense.

“I love defense more than anything.”

Her senior season at Iowa Smith set or tied six single-game records including points in a game (46) and free throw attempts (19).

Honored to be drafted, she also realized that being taken in the third round of the WNBA Draft guaranteed her nothing more than a chance to try out for the Mercury during training camp.

“I was kind of nervous,” Smith said prior to heading to training camp. “I knew I had to come out and run really hard and show the coaches why they drafted me.

“They knew I had quickness and good defense and I had to go out and show them.”

Although cuts can be made at any time in the WNBA, Smith made it on the regular season roster. It was her work ethic and no-quit personality that forged her a spot on the team. Now with Kelly Miller out with an injury, Smith is one of the people Westhead looks to guide the team at the point.

“I am willing to do whatever it takes to help this team out,” Smith said. “We’re starting a little slow, but we’re getting better every game.

“I’m just coming out, trying to help my team whether it is offensively or defensively.”

Since the Mercury season is so compact and it seems as though they are always playing games, traveling, or practicing Smith doesn’t have much time to just relax. But when she does, she is a homebody.

“I’m a laid-back person,” Smith explained. “I like to stay in the house and chill, watch movies and eat pizza.

“I don’t really like going out and partying, that’s just not for me.”

Because she is new to Phoenix and her friends and family live in other states, Smith hasn’t gotten out to see a new movie recently, but her favorite selection is a funny one.

“You want to know what my favorite movie all-time is?” Smith questioned. “It’s Howard the Duck!

“Have you ever heard of that movie?”


“It’s like our planet and another whole different planet, that is a duck planet,” Smith explained entertainingly. “So, this duck transmits over to our planet and is kind of in the music business… (Smith paused and laughed) It’s a stupid movie, but I love it to death!”

Smith has a good sense of humor, as one can imagine for a person whose favorite movie is about a planet of ducks. She is also fast, as many have probably noticed on the court. As soon as she finished up discussing basketball, life, and movies she ran off the practice court to catch her flight to Seattle.

(Howard the Duck is a George Lucas pre-Star Wars film which came out in 1984 and stars Tim Robbins. Upon its release, it was one of the worst-reviewed movies of all time.)