Tangela Smith knows she is coming off one of the best offensive performances of her eight-year WNBA career. The 6-4 forward averaged a team-high 13.6 points and 34.3 minutes last season, while adding 5.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.65 steals and 1.03 blocks.
Still, for Smith it�s not the numbers that show up in her statistics that matter most � it�s the ones that show up in the win-loss column, and she knows the Sting have to improve on their 6-28 showing from a year ago.
�As a team we definitely want to do better than we did last year,� admits Smith. �We have a great mix of veterans and younger players. As a team we have high expectations for ourselves. We had a rough season last year, but we just have to get that out of our minds. There is a new coach in place, and we have a brand new facility to play in. So we just first want to start with a turnaround, get a lot more wins and go from there.�
Much as the Sting are looking to improve off last season�s letdown, Smith is also hoping to take her game to that next level.
After missing Charlotte�s last three games with a knee bruise, she reported to training camp in phenomenal condition and seems poised and ready to continue her dominance in the frontcourt after pushing herself to get better in the offseason.
�I was in Korea for a little bit and came back early to work out with (teammates) Helen (Darling), Allison (Feaster) and the coaches,� she said. �It was tough with only three of us. Those were some of the hardest workouts I�ve been through, but they made me ready for practice. I was working out with (assistant coach) Earl (Cureton). He�s our post coach and had me doing some things that kind of winded me. All that has made me more prepared for the start of training camp.�
A more prepared Smith could mean trouble for the rest of the WNBA. After beginning her career with the Sacramento Monarchs, she took her game from coast to coast signing with Charlotte for the 2005 season. In her first year with the Sting, she became the team�s primary scoring option and showcased her all-around skills on the court.
Smith�s work ethic, hustle, determination and desire to make herself and those around her better make her the perfect example of what WNBA players should aspire to be on a team, not only with a good mix of veterans, but with a fair amount of youngsters looking to make their mark in the league.
As the most-tenured vet on the Sting�s roster along with Feaster, Smith welcomes the leadership role and is ready to help guide some of the younger players like first-round picks Monique Curry and Tye�sha Fluker through their first WNBA season.
�You need leadership and experience out there,� Smith said. �I think it�s going to be great with our younger players coming off the bench. They should give us a spark with their energy. They�re a very athletic bunch. They run up and down the floor in practice, so as long as they�re willing to learn from us veterans, and we teach them along the way, we�ll be in good shape.
�I definitely think we made some great pickups in the draft with Monique and Tye�sha. This year�s team is more athletic and has more height to bring down rebounds. That�s something we needed last year. We need to score more points, so I think our draft picks can definitely help out with that.�
With a new coaching staff in place, a new venue in Charlotte Bobcats Arena to call home, some new acquisitions looking to make an immediate impact and a solid core group of players led by Smith, all the pieces may be in place for the Sting to put last year�s finish to rest and emerge as a contender again this season.
�I�m just going to go out there and do what I do,� said Smith. �I�m going to go out there and play my style of basketball and everything else will come. I just have to work with my teammates -- and as long as we work together, everything will fall into place.�