WNBA’s Nalissa Smith is Express-News’ Female Athlete of the Year

2022 Indiana Fever ahead Nalisa Smith was a dream come true, and she or he was the most effective girls’s sports activities needed to provide within the San Antonio space this 12 months.

Smith, an East Central graduate coming off the WNBA’s All-Rookie season, has been named the 2022 Specific-Information Feminine Athlete of the 12 months.

The Fever chosen Smith with the second general decide within the April draft, making the 6-foot-4 energy ahead the WNBA’s highest draft decide ever for a participant from the San Antonio space. It was notable years making the previous highschool and school All-American.

“It is a blessing, actually,” mentioned Smith. “I do know lots of people who’re attempting to get the place I’m. I am simply counting my blessings, and I am glad I am right here.”

Smith put collectively a powerful rookie marketing campaign with Indiana, ending sixth within the league with 7.9 rebounds per sport for a median of 13.5 factors whereas taking pictures 38.1 p.c from behind the 3-point arc. She was named an All-Rookie and completed third in WNBA Rookie of the 12 months voting.

The previous five-star recruit kicked off 2022 by wrapping up his illustrious profession at Baylor with a slew of nationwide awards and recognitions. As a senior, Smith gained the Katrina McClain Award, given to the nation’s prime working again, for the second consecutive season. She was additionally a finalist for the Wade Award given to the nation’s greatest participant, an award she gained as a junior.

She was additionally named an Related Press Huge 12 Participant of the 12 months and All-American Staff for the second consecutive season after averaging 22.1 factors and 11.5 rebounds per sport, each within the prime ten nationally.

The second seed Girl Bears suffered a 61-47 upset loss to tenth seed South Dakota within the second spherical of the 2022 NCAA Girls’s Basketball Match, however Smith nonetheless completed her collegiate profession with loads of collegiate success. She was a key bench participant in Baylor’s 2019 Nationwide Championship lineup her freshman season, and after a shocking marketing campaign in a pandemic-shortened 2020 season, helped the Girl Bears advance to the Elite Eight as a junior.

“Baylor challenged me daily on the basketball stage, taking part in nice Huge 12 gamers,” mentioned Smith. “It type of made me notice, ‘Yeah, I can play within the league. “

The beginning of her WNBA profession was a whirlwind as she went from being drafted on April 11 to taking part in coaching camp and a pair of preseason video games over the course of some brief weeks earlier than making her debut within the season opener in opposition to The Washington Mystics on Might 6. She recorded her first double-double within the WNBA with 13 factors and 13 rebounds.

The 12 months additionally marked some private milestones for Smith, who started dwelling exterior of Texas for the primary time in her post-enlistment life. After I took to the court docket a couple of instances every week, it was normally in opposition to one of many many WNBA superstars I grew up with — Candace Parker, Elena Delle Donne, and Sylvia Fowles amongst them. Being head-to-head with these gamers all through the season, Smith mentioned, was a surreal expertise.

Smith’s father, Rodney, echoed comparable sentiments. He mentioned that after seeing the hassle it took to realize her basketball dream at such a younger age, now seeing her compete in opposition to the most effective gamers on this planet was rewarding.

“I’m sitting on the sidelines with my spouse and her brother, we’re one another like, ‘She’s truly within the WNBA, and she or he’s holding her sport in opposition to these nice gamers, letting them know after they cross the torch,’” Rodney Smith mentioned. “The league is in good arms.

There was one participant lacking among the many dominant place gamers Smith confronted this season – fellow Girl Bear Brittney Griner. The seven-time WNBA star, who Smith mentioned was a “large motive” she selected Baylor, has been held in Russia for 10 months after authorities discovered vape cartridges with hashish residue in her baggage at a Moscow airport in February. Grenier was launched in a prisoner swap between the USA and Russia earlier this month.

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