Shannon Smith, a junior transfer from North Carolina, is one of the few experienced players on Michigan's team. (Steve Perez / Detroit News)
Ann Arbor — Michigan women’s basketball coach Kim Barnes Arico is going green ... sort of.
As this season begins, the second-year coach has a new go-to scorer in Shannon Smith, a transfer from North Carolina.
Her father? Kevin Smith, a two-time all-Big Ten player and captain for Michigan State.
“It was tough, but he thinks it’s a great fit for me so he wants what’s best for me,” Shannon Smith of her father’s feelings of her attending Michigan. “He talks to me almost every single day, asking what happened in practice. He was a great point guard and it’s good that I could learn from him.”
Smith, a 5-foot-7 junior guard, was Miss Basketball in North Carolina, averaging 30 points her senior year to help Forestview High win the state title. She has two years of eligibility left after leading Trinity Valley Community College to a national title last year, earning tournament MVP honors.
“(North Carolina) just wasn’t a good fit for me even though I played 15 minutes a game my red-shirt freshman year,” she said. “It was a great decision to go to Trinity because I would have sat out two out of three years if I didn’t. We went undefeated and I learned how to be more of a scorer, playing the two-guard instead of the point. I learned to become more of a vocal leader too.”
And, Barnes Arico is thrilled to have Smith on board, especially after losing four starters and 90 percent of the scoring from last year’s team, which went 22-11 (9-7 Big Ten) and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s definitely going to be a young and inexperienced team,” Barnes Arico said. “I think the most exciting thing for me is they are following the lead of last year’s team. They are working really hard, they’re buying in to our culture and expectations.
“They have really made tremendous strides.”
Junior guard/forward Nicole Elmblad (4.3 points, 5.4 rebounds) is the lone returning starter. Four guards could be on the floor with Elmblad, including Smith, freshman Siera Thompson and sophomore Madison Ristovski. They group played together during a trip to France and Italy in late August.
“The foreign trip obviously helped us see what our young ones are going to be about,” Barnes Arico said. “They have really stepped up and made immediate contributions.”
Kesley Mitchell (Inkster), a 6-1 sophomore, was supposed to give the Wolverines needed size, but suffered a broken bone in her foot and could miss the entire season. She missed last season with a knee injury.
That means Cyesha Goree, a 6-3 junior, will be asked to carry a bigger load inside.
“She’s going to have to rebound for us and do it at both ends of the floor,” Barnes Arico said. “She’s been doing a great job in practice, but I think other people are going to have to step up and do it.”