Kelsey Smith, St. Charles North's all-time leader in points, rebounds, and blocks, and a three-year varsity player, was heavily recruited by all major conferences. The 6'4" Smith sat out her inaugural 2009 campaign in East Lansing due to knee injuries. The following year she appeared in 22 games for the Spartans, scoring 10 points, grabbing five rebounds, notching five assists, and blocking three shots in the first game. She also was an Academic All-Big Ten selection that year.
But the injuries returned, and Smith's playing time gradually decreased. She transferred to DePaul after her sophomore year. The difference between the schools for Smith was more than just mileage.
"Michigan State and DePaul are such different schools," said Smith. "Michigan State is a traditional college with a football team and a big campus, but DePaul is a lot more urban."
"One of the nice things about DePaul is that everyone knows one another, everyone is in one athletic center, and [Athletic Director] Jean Lenti-Ponsetto knows everyone's name. It is more tight knit and like a family."
Smith sat out the 2011 season and the fall quarter of 2012 due to NCAA transfer guidelines.
In 2012 she started to round back into the form she showed in high school, shooting 4-4 from the floor and grabbing nine rebounds versus Northern Illinois. But then the knee injuries came back and her time on the court was again limited.
She has played in just 10 games is this, her senior year, due to the lingering knee injuries.
"I came back and then I got injured again. It is a lot of up and downs, but I think the biggest thing is staying confident in myself."
And through it all, her support group has helped her maintain that confidence.
"I have a great family," said Smith. "My parents are always really supportive and very encouraging. I think that once you go through one major injury you develop that tough skin."
But playing or not, Smith has always tried to contribute to her other family.
"Whether it is in practice or a game, my goal is to get better every day and make sure everyone around me is getting better as well."
Smith's collegiate basketball career has been a winding one. But through it all, she has maintained, pursued, and accomplished both her own goals and she has helped her team do the same for its goals. And those goals are intertwined.
Her personal goals were "to get better, be a really good teammate, contribute on the glass, and contribute defensively in any way that I could."
One of the goals that she and her teammates set over the summer was to win the Big East title; mission accomplished last weekend.
Smith's next plans on helping the Blue Demons win some games in the NCAA Tournament.
"Coach Bruno talks about me and [freshman] Brandi Harvey-Carr cleaning up the boards. At tournament time it is important that defense is tight."
She was able to experience a positive Senior Night a couple of weeks ago, when DePaul beat Georgetown. The team celebrated its Big East title after the game, which included the traditional cutting down of the nets. Smith added her own dance move while at the top of the ladder.
"The [Senior Night] was awesome. We got to cut down the nets and put on the [Big East Champion] shirts. That is what you work for."
Smith graduates in March with a finance degree. In July she starts a job as a financial analyst at a bank in California.
She will leave DePaul with missions accomplished.
DePaul's Kelsey Smith: Missions Accomplished
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