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

2022 Indiana Fever ahead Nalisa Smith was a dream come true, and he or she was one of the best girls’s sports activities needed to supply within the San Antonio space this yr.

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

The Fever chosen Smith with the second general choose within the April draft, making the 6-foot-4 energy ahead the WNBA’s highest draft choose 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 formidable rookie marketing campaign with Indiana, ending sixth within the league with 7.9 rebounds per recreation for a mean of 13.5 factors whereas capturing 38.1 % 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 received the Katrina McClain Award, given to the nation’s high operating 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 received as a junior.

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

The second seed Woman Bears suffered a 61-47 upset loss to tenth seed South Dakota within the second spherical of the 2022 NCAA Ladies’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 stunning marketing campaign in a pandemic-shortened 2020 season, helped the Woman Bears advance to the Elite Eight as a junior.

“Baylor challenged me daily on the basketball degree, enjoying nice Large 12 gamers,” mentioned Smith. “It form 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 collaborating 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 Could 6. She recorded her first double-double within the WNBA with 13 factors and 13 rebounds.

The yr additionally marked some private milestones for Smith, who started residing outdoors of Texas for the primary time in her post-enlistment life. Once I took to the courtroom a couple of instances every week, it was often 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 trouble it took to attain her basketball dream at such a younger age, now seeing her compete in opposition to one of the best gamers on the planet was rewarding.

“I’m sitting on the sidelines with my spouse and her brother, we’re taking a look at one another like, ‘She’s really within the WNBA, and he or she’s holding her recreation in opposition to these nice gamers, letting them know once they move the torch,’” Rodney Smith mentioned. “The league is in good palms.

There was one participant lacking among the many dominant place gamers Smith confronted this season – fellow Woman 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 america and Russia earlier this month.

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