To many, basketball is just a sport. It is fun to watch all the greats on television or play recreationally, but very few take their talents to the next level.
College basketball is a whole different animal. From practice and weights, to film and travel, being a team member on the Cal Poly Pomona women’s basketball team is a challenging yet rewarding experience. To Kasey Smit, basketball changed her life.
A local from Mission Viejo, Smit grew up surrounded by sports. After contemplating whether to play soccer, softball or swimming, ultimately, Smit’s parents made the decision to put her in basketball, following in her big sister’s footsteps. What started off as a fifth-grade hobby would become a passion she would carry with her to college.
“As soon as I picked up a ball, I just started to enjoy it … the competition and the thrill of being on the court,” Smit said. “Each year I played, I just loved it more and more.”
At the age of 8, Smit was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. As a child, she also struggled with epilepsy, and there would be times she was talking to someone, but her eyes would be rolling back and she would be unaware. After taking many tests and meeting with multiple doctors about her disability, Smit’s parents’ main concern was whether their daughter could be successful in school and in life.
“It’s been rough. As a kid, it was really hard to focus,” Smit said. “In kindergarten, my teachers would let me walk around the class and let me do whatever I want. When I got to high school, I was in Individualized Education Program classes which made me self-conscious and think, ‘I’m not smart. There’s nothing I can do well in school.’”
When Smit plays basketball, she feels good because she is good. “Playing basketball is my ‘smart,’ it gives me an escape,” Smit said. “I learned to focus more. I realized that in order to play the sport I love and go to my happy place, I had to do well in school.”
After graduating from Tesoro High School, Smit went on to play for Irvine Valley College. As soon as she arrived, she got in contact with the Disability Resource Center note takers, and took her studies very seriously. Her success in the classroom led to her success on the court. At Irvine Valley College, Smit averaged 19.1 points, 13.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 2.2 steals and 2.1 blocks per game and collected 22 double-doubles.
Monica Todd, Smit’s current teammate and fellow community college transfer student, remembers playing against Smit before they both arrived at CPP.
“I went to Palomar College and our first scrimmage was against Kasey and Irvine Valley College,” Todd said. “Our coach told us that all we had to do was guard her because no one else was as good as her.”
When Todd found out that Smit had signed with CPP, it got her thinking. “I was also getting recruited by Cal Poly and I was like, ‘Do I want to play with Kasey Smit? She’s a dog, so that would be a good look for me,’” Todd said. “When I did sign here, I was really excited to play with her …. I knew she was a competitive player.”
At CPP, Smit is currently fourth overall in the California Collegiate Athletic Association conference scoring, seventh in rebounding, third in blocked shots, and fifth in field goal percentage. While her statistics are more than impressive, it is her exceptional work ethic that makes her a great basketball player and teammate.
Senior Jackie Ricketson describes Smit as a kind and helpful person who means a lot to their team.
“Kasey is one of the most fun people to be around on and off the court … it’s a really nice balance to have someone you can trust and have fun with, but she’s going to get her stuff done and work hard,” Ricketson said. “Kasey can literally score from anywhere on the court and she pretty much gets a double-double every game.” Ricketson and Todd praise Smit for her determination and energy, believing it boosts their team chemistry and comradery.
Head coach Danelle Bishop loves coaching Smit because she makes it fun every day while still being one of the hardest workers. However, while Bishop admires Smit’s athletic abilities and determined work ethic, she is most proud of her growth in the classroom.
“That is really huge for her. She almost got a 4.0 last fall and I think she barely missed it because she got an A- instead of the A,” Bishop said. “For me as a coach, that was the best thing I could have heard in my two years coaching her.”
Bishop is more than confident that Smit will do well in life after college. “She’s going to be successful mainly just because of her work ethic. There is nothing that is going to stop her. She surpassed our expectations in the classroom, and with everything she is learning on the basketball court, the sky’s the limit for her,” Bishop said.
As a senior, Smit will miss hanging out with the girls after she graduates. Whether the team just endured a tough practice or celebrated a memorable win, she appreciates the togetherness and the sisterhood within the team.
“We are all together and all bonded. We always check up on each other … making sure we get to class or practice on time,” Smit said. “We always have each other’s backs and that’s something I will really miss. I’ll miss them so much and what we created.”
As Smit is soaking up her last season of collegiate basketball, she is overwhelmed and grateful for her coaches and teammates and all the memories they have shared.
“To have someone care about you so much is an amazing feeling,” she said. “The coaching staff really does care about us like a family … they teach us life lessons. It makes basketball mean more than just a game.”
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