Guard Gabby Smith enthusiastic about 'Dores

When Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb coached the Xavier Musketeers during the late 1990s, a young girl who lived 20 minutes away was a regular spectator at those games.

Growing up in a family of athletes, Gabby Smith developed in skill and height and is now a 5'10" freshman guard for Balcomb's Commodores. The Cincinnati native recruited by Kansas and Nebraska is thrilled to be playing in the SEC at a school where academics are a primary focus. "I got lucky finding a school with great basketball, too" she adds.

Touted as a shooter, but with stats indicating solid all-around play, Gabby said she likes to drive and dish and would rather take an assist than a shot at times.

It's no wonder she looks up to SEC leaders Jence Rhoads and Meredith Marsh, both excellent ball handlers who drive and shoot with the nation's best. Now that she's mixing it up with them during full court pickup games, Gabby appreciates the versatility of talent she witnesses first hand.

"I'm really excited to play with everyone. I look up to all of them. They're all so cool! Mer is an amazing shooter. And Jence is a really smart player because she's kind of deceiving. She's really fast without necessarily looking like she's fast. She's a very strong player, too. And both of them love basketball and are always in the gym. That's why I look up to them."

A standout player in Ohio, Gabby helped Mount Notre Dame high school (24-1) win its fourth consecutive state championship in March. Her season stats include an 11.5-point average, 5.2 rebounds per game and 68 steals.

As strong as she was coming in, Gabby admits the first week of pickup games were tough. "They were challenging because I wasn't sure what I could do yet and how I would fit in with everybody. There's a speed difference too because college is a lot faster than high school. I had to adjust to that, but now I think I'm doing pretty well, and starting to get used to it."

The fourth youngest of six children, all of Gabby's older siblings play collegiate sports. Her oldest brother played football at Purdue, another plays lacrosse at West Point and her only sister plays basketball at the University of Charleston in West Virginia.

Surrounded by family, Gabby also enjoyed volunteering with the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. She helped little sis Courtney with homework and just hung out to talk about life. The freshman also helped coach a third-to-eighth-grade girl's basketball team called the Cincy Swish. The Swish sponsor a program called the Swish Spirit that helps challenged children learn to play basketball. "It was on Sunday nights and I worked at the shooting station and taught disabled kids how to shoot. It was really rewarding and they were awesome. I love doing stuff like that."

As the summer term is drawing to a close, Gabby said she's enjoyed campus life so far. "People are asking what's the best part and what's the worst part? I say there are no bad parts. I love it!"

Gabby Smith (Vanderbilt photo)

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