COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Texas A&M women’s basketball head coach Gary Blair has announced the signing of highly-recruited junior college All-American Tanisha Smith who will join the defending Big 12 Conference champion and NCAA Elite Eight Aggies for the 2008-09 season.
Smith, a six-foot combination guard/forward who will be a junior in the fall, led the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith to a third-place finish at the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship this past season. She averaged 18.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game while also leading the Lady Lions with 104 steals and 71 three-pointers in 36 games played. Smith finished the year ranked 16th nationally in scoring, 24th in three-point field goal percentage (40.1) and among the top 25 in steals per game (2.9). A first team all-conference and first team all-region selection, she was honored as Region II regular-season MVP and Region II Tournament MVP. Along with her first team All-America credentials, Smith was named to the NJCAA All-Tournament Team.
“Tanisha gives us a high-power offensive player that fits the mold of all of the successful perimeter players that have played in our system,” Blair said. “To be able to get a player of Tanisha’s caliber that has already played a year in the SEC at the University of Arkansas and has gone up against Candace Parker of Tennessee and company is unparallel. She will help us ease the burden of losing Morenike Atunrase to graduation and to the WNBA. Tanisha can play all three perimeter positions and gives us versatility that opponents will not know where and who will line up at the two, three and four positions. She is a shot blocker that can run the floor like a track star.”
Originally from Kansas City, Mo., Smith spent one season at the University of Arkansas prior to transferring to UA-Fort Smith. She previously starred at Kansas City’s Lincoln College Prep Academy under former coach Jeff Atkins. She averaged 28 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and three steals as a senior and led the Tigers to an undefeated conference season and into the Missouri Class AAAA State Tournament in 2006. Smith was named MVP of the Missouri All-Star Game and closed out her career in Lincoln Prep’s all-time 1,000 Point Club. A McDonald’s High School All-American nominee and WBCA All-American, her resume also includes a career-high 50 points in one pre-conference game for Lincoln Prep which was half of the team’s 98 total points.
“Assistant Coach Johnnie Harris signed Tanisha while she was an assistant at Arkansas,” Blair said. “Coach Harris did a great job of resigning her again, this time for Texas A&M. Our players also did an excellent job of making her feel comfortable. Texas A&M being in the Big 12 also solidified the commitment. She committed to us during the Maroon and White football game and later under the Century Tree on campus. The signing of Tanisha gives us a very versatile class with four freshmen and one junior college All-American joining us in the fall.”
A four-time all-conference, two-time all-state and three-time first-team all-district standout, she led Lincoln Prep to the Missouri state title game with a 26-4 record as a junior. Smith also played AAU basketball with the Kansas City Keys under coach Harrell Johnson. Her team reached the AAU Final Four in Orlando, Fla., in the summer of 2005. She averaged 18.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.0 steals in AAU play, including a 31-point outburst against the Cincinnati Nets, to earn AAU All-America honors. Additionally, she was one of 20 players nationally who received honorable mention recognition for the WBCA High School All-America Game in 2006.
“I chose Texas A&M because of the Big 12 Conference and having the opportunity to play in front of my family,” said Smith who is the second Kansas City native to sign with A&M in the last two years. She played youth basketball alongside redshirt freshman and current Aggie Tyra White who hails from Hickman Mills High School. “I feel very comfortable with Coach Harris, because I’ve known her for a very long time since the days when she recruited me to Arkansas. I’m excited about coming to Texas A&M and getting started. A&M’s style fits my playing style. They are a man-to-man team and tend not to give up any easy baskets.”
A former Missouri academic student-athlete of the year in 2006, Smith plans to major in kinesiology with an emphasis in sport management at Texas A&M. She will join incoming freshmen Sydney Carter (DeSoto, Texas), Skylar Collins (Cedar Hill, Texas), Adaora Elonu (Houston, Texas) and Kelsey Assarian (Naples, Fla.) this coming fall. Smith chose A&M over Cincinnati, Georgia and Kentucky.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING ABOUT TANISHA SMITH
“Tanisha had a great year for us. She started the year thinking she was one of the best players in the country and she finished the year knowing she was one of the best players in the country. She won everything she could starting with being a junior college All-American on down through being named all-conference. She is a true multi-position player. She played point guard, out at the wing and even played down low when we needed her to. Tanisha will fit in very well to what Coach Blair and his staff are doing there. They have a love of players that play multiple positions and Tanisha will be able to do that.” –UA Fort Smith Head Coach Louis Whorton
“An ultra-athletic perimeter threat with consistent range to the arc, explosive one-on-one skills and defends the arc.” – Dan Olsen, Collegiate Girls Basketball Report
“Tanisha’s a player that just loves to be in the gym, wants to be coached, to be taught, and wants to be a difference maker.” – Former Arkansas Head Coach and Current Florida Assistant Coach Susie Gardner