Girls Basketball: Abby Smith helps Romeoville earn respect
By Matt LeCren For Sun-Times Media February 1, 2013 9:48PM
Romeoville’s Abby Smith bring the ball downcourt vs. Minooka during the Morris Shootout on Tuesday. | Ray Luna ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 4, 2013 6:36AM
Anyone who thinks teenagers don’t know about history hasn’t met Abby Smith.
The Romeoville basketball star played five sports in middle school and had the opportunity to choose which high school she attended.
Smith picked Romeoville because she thought she could leave her mark on a program that had been an afterthought for 20 years at that point.
“Before I got to high school I had a choice to go to a Catholic school and I wanted to go to RHS because I wanted to make a difference at RHS,” Smith said. “And I believed my team could make (an impact), maybe not my freshman year, but in the future.”
Smith was right. Four years later, the No. 1 Spartans (23-3) are enjoying their best season since the 1989 team went 26-4 and qualified for the state quarterfinals.
Smith, a 5-10 senior point guard, has been the main catalyst in the remarkable turnaround. The versatile four-year starter provides brains and moxie for a team just getting used to playing on the big stage.
When Smith and fellow four-year starter Brianna Harris were freshmen, the Spartans struggled to a 6-22 record, but Smith contributed 7.2 points, 3.0 assists and 2.4 steals per game.
It was a sign of things to come. When Smith’s childhood friend Kiera Currie transferred from Bolingbrook two years ago, Romeoville took off, posting a 21-7 record as Smith averaged 11 points, five assists and three steals.
Last season was even better, as the Spartans went 22-7 and won a share of the Southwest Prairie Conference championship, the school’s first. With Currie dominating in the paint, Smith again ran the show, averaging 9.8 points, 4.3 assists, 4.2 steals and 3.9 rebounds.
“We’ve come a long way from freshman year,” Smith said. “Twenty wins in back-to-back seasons, that’s awesome. We’ve been told we’ve changed the program but honestly it’s the coaches who have pushed us from Day One.”
They didn’t have to push hard, especially with the ultra-competitive Smith, who is also a four-year starting centerfielder for the softball team. Even as Romeoville’s schedule has gotten tougher and its expectations higher, Smith continues to improve, averaging 10.7 points and 5.3 rebounds while leading the team in assists (5.0) and steals (3.3).
Those all-around skills have impressed knowledgeable observers. After Romeoville beat Geneva 68-58 at the prestigious McDonald’s Shootout on Jan. 19, Midwest Recruiting Report filed this scouting report:
“(Smith) is a long, athletic guard with a well-rounded overall game. Excellent on-ball defender who jumps passing lanes and forces turnovers. Has the speed and skill to convert the turnovers she forces into points at the other end. Blue collar player that gets on the floor to secure loose balls. Possesses nice scoring touch around the rim with either hand. Runs the point well and has the ball handling capabilities to avoid pressure and create plays for her team.”
Smith scored a career-high 24 points in that game, including the 1,000th of her career, flashing an ability to shoot three-pointers as well as drive to the basket with effectiveness. But she also did the little things well, such as drawing the fifth foul on Geneva’s 6-1 Division I forward Sami Pawlak when she took a charge with 2:45 left.
Plays like that, which Smith and Currie make on a regular basis, set a great example for younger players.
“I tell all the eighth graders and freshmen that come in, if you have the work ethic that they have, you’re going to succeed,” Romeoville coach Julio Carrasco said. “Those girls are gym rats. They’re in the gym all the time and they push themselves.”
While Currie, who has signed with Division I Gardner-Webb, has drawn more of the attention, Smith’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. She will play basketball at McKendree University, which just moved up from the NAIA to NCAA Division II.
“(Smith) has meant a lot,” Carrasco said. “She’s like my right-hand person. The great thing with her is that she commands leadership and she gets it from the girls.
“So she’s my buffer, because I’m the one chewing butt and then she goes out there and helps out and smoothes things over. She does a great job. She’s a tremendous leader and I can’t wait to see her play in college.”
The Spartans, who are closing in on a second straight SPC title with a 12-0 record with two games left, are the No. 4 seed at the Class 4A Oswego Sectional, meaning they are a slight favorite to win their first regional title in 24 years.
A championship would be a fitting capstone to the career of Smith, who said before the season that “Romeoville is always considered the best of the weakest and we want to be the best of the best.”
Regardless of how far along the tough postseason road they go, the senior class of Smith, Currie, Harris and three-year starter Angelica Osusky has carried the Spartans a long way toward that goal.
“I think we are (among the best), honestly,” Smith said. “We’ve come a long way since freshman year and there honestly has been no respect. I think we’re finally starting to get it.”