RHS grad in junior season with Pioneers
BY KEVIN BONESKE
Sydnei Smith of Rhinelander has had to overcome injury to have more playing time this season on the University of Wisconsin-Platteville women’s basketball team.
“This season has been a little harder and more stressful for me,” she said. “I came into (the 2016-17) season with a stress fracture in my right foot that had been pretty bad. I missed a decent amount of practices due to this, so I was working on a full recovery.
“So this year, I have had much less playing time than my previous (sophomore) year. I’m hoping to change that now that I am at a full recovery.”
In the first 12 games this season, in which the Pioneers compiled a record of 4-8 overall and 0-1 in the WIAC, Smith appeared in seven games. The junior guard has tallied nine points along with five assists and five rebounds in 33 minutes on the court.
Smith said she considers herself both a point guard and shooting guard, which will depend on what is needed on the court.
“The shooting guard role really came to me my senior year of high school under coach (Ryan) Clark, and I truly believe it was one of the best choices someone could have had me do,” she said. “Being able to be in that position, as well as a point guard, allows you to see and understand what is going on the court at all times.”
At Rhinelander High School, Smith was named the Great Northern Conference’s “Player of the Year” for 2013-14 and also received unanimous all-conference first-team honors her senior season when she averaged 15.7 points per game while shooting 52.9 percent from the field.
Compared to the high school level of competition, Smith said there are many differences playing Division III college basketball.
“The big ones are the speed of the game (and) the strength and height of the girls,” she said. “The competition is so different, the understanding of the game, and a big one is the heart or pure love for the game. At this level, everyone wants to be there, everyone is there to play the game they love. We will do anything to continue playing. The difference is truly amazing.”
Smith said it has taken dedication and time to develop her basketball skill level in college.
“I’ve become faster with decisions, being able to see the court well, and shooting,” she said. “Also I’ve become a better teammate, and these are small things anyone can learn and do on any team.”
Smith, the daughter of Tim and Kelly Smith, plans to major in physical education. She said balancing academics and athletics takes a lot of time.
“You will be in classes all day, then you go straight to practice, and after that you get some food, and start hitting the books,” she said. “On game days, you will do your homework before the game, whether it be on a bus, or in the locker room. You find time to do it, even if it’s only bits and pieces.
“Academics is a huge thing to keep track of. People don’t realize how hard it is, but it’s why we are here. We are student athletes, and school does come first.”
Smith said being on the UW-Platteville women’s basketball team also involves a lot of time in the offseason.
“We have to work in the summer to keep our skill up and stay in shape,” she said. “Once school starts, we are usually starting preseason within 1-2 days of classes beginning. Preseason will consist of 4-5 days a week of lifting, scrimmaging, conditioning, and pool workouts. Many times these days will begin at 6 a.m.
“Come October, the season starts, and we have no break between the preseason and season. The season usually ends between February and March, depending on if you make tournament play. Then you’ll have about two weeks off, and the postseason starts up, which is lifting and scrimmaging. So college basketball, or any other college winter sport, takes up a lot of time, and dedication.”
Smith said she would like to help the team at UW-Platteville win a conference championship and a national title.
“We have the talent to do that this year, and I really hope we can do it,” she said. “It will take one day at a time, a lot of heart, and effort, but I truly believe this is the year for us.”
Smith said she decided to attend UW-Platteville because it was “a perfect fit for me.”
“When I came to visit here, I felt at home,” she said. “The town reminded me of Rhinelander, and the people here are so sweet….
“I had many other schools in the conference (WIAC) interested in me but I would say the biggest one was Concordia of Wisconsin. I actually had planned on going there, until my visit here. UW-Platteville is a great college, and I’m happy I picked it.”
With Platteville located in the southwest corner of the state, Smith said she does not get to see much of her family and friends at games, unless a game is close to home or her family and friends aren’t busy on a weekend. However, she notes her father is able to watch the games online or follow the statistics when the games aren’t shown live.
“Sometimes I will get to the locker room after the game, look at my phone and have six or more texts from my dad about the game,’ she said. “To some people that could be annoying, but to me, it’s a way of support, and knowing that he’s watching, and I love that. I look forward to hearing those things from my dad now that I can’t (see him) right after game, as I did in high school.”
Upon graduating from college, Smith said she plans on getting a job, but she isn’t yet sure where.
“Could be back home, or wherever the job takes me,” she said.” As of now, I will have my teaching license in Wisconsin, and Illinois, and I might also get it in Iowa. But for now, I am focused on classes, and we will see where that takes me.”