Iowa Alumni Magazine | April 2006 | People

Team Builder: Crystal Smith

By Shelbi Thomas

Crystal Smith typically listens to rap and hip-hop. But, since teammate Abby Emmert introduced her to "Don't Stop Believin'," the power ballad by '80s band Journey has been Smith's anthem for the UI women's basketball season.

It pumps her up before a big game. It plays in her head during her frequent three-point shots. Even more, it reflects her faith in the young squad she leads as the senior on the court. The other Hawkeyes—especially 6'6" freshman standout Megan Skouby, the tallest female basketball player in school history—tower over the 5'3" guard. But when Smith speaks, the team listens.

When Iowa trailed Illinois by 14 points in the first six minutes of a January game, Smith's fiery pep talk during the timeout pushed the Hawkeyes to a 19-point victory. "I'm finally getting to be more vocal," Smith says of her leadership style.

She leads the team not only with spirit, but by example. She puts her body into the game, flinging herself toward the ball. Sweat drips down her face and neck as she leaves opponents fumbling in her wake.

A game against Louisiana Tech this past fall was especially meaningful to the Haughton, Louisiana, native, as it gave family and friends a chance to see her shine. She didn't disappoint, racking up 46 game points—the second highest score by a single player in Big Ten women's basketball history—and earning Big Ten Player of the Week honors for the second time.

Even miles from home, Smith still feels the support of her family. Her father is Iowa assistant coach Michael Morgan, who Smith says is like any other coach "except I call him Dad."

Smith is shooting for the WNBA after graduation, but for now she hopes to guide the Hawkeyes to new heights. She tells her teammates, "As long as you've got confidence and work hard and listen to your coaches—that's all you need."

Such simple advice is hard to put into practice. With Smith on their side, though, the Hawkeyes believe.