Bria Smith is improved and ready to go

Bria Smith started all 33 games for the University of Louisville women's basketball team as a freshman last season. Now, Smith is improved and ready to make strides to help her team as a sophomore.

As a freshman, Bria Smith was a key player for the University of Louisville women's basketball team. She started all 33 games during the season.

A former McDonald's All-American from Massapequa, N.Y., Smith averaged 9.2 points a game and was a unanimous All-Big East Conference selection.

But towards the end of the season, Smith and U of L coach Jeff Walz saw it became tougher for Smith to operate. She was more of a slasher to the basket and teams started to play off her, forcing her to take jump shots.

"By the end of the season, people were letting me take any shot that I wanted," Smith said. "They knew I was a driver and were playing off me."

The 5-foot-10 Smith didn't fare well from outside and said she didn't feel confident enough to take many of those shots.

So, in the offseason she worked on her jumper.

"She really has gotten a lot better," U of L coach Jeff Walz said. "She's a lot more confident and can knock down that shot now. We need her to do that."

Smith is expected to start again this season for the Cardinals, who were ranked No. 9 in the Associated Press preseason poll. The Cardinals open on Friday night at home against Texas A&M at 7 o'clock.

"Bria has gotten her jumper down and she's still getting to the hole, so she's going to score more for us," junior point guard Shoni Schimmel said. "She has really improved and that's only going to make us better."

Smith said she also improved her ballhandling in the offseason and Walz "knows now the things I am capable of doing."

"I know what to expect this year and the things I worked on, I know I need to do in the game for us to be really, really good," Smith said. "I am just way more prepared going into this season.

"I am ready to knock down shots and do whatever is needed of be to do in order to help our team win."

*Walz is likely to start Schimmel and smith at the guard spots with freshman Megan Deines in the backcourt with those two. Sara Hammond will likely start at small forward and Shawnta' Dyer at the other forward spot.

*Tia Gibbs and Asia Taylor are still sidelined with injuries and won't play in the opener. Gibbs is expected back in a couple of weeks, while Taylor won't return until sometime likely in late December.

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