FORT WAYNE – Concordias Little Courtney is about to grow up right in front of everybodys eyes this season.
After being the leading scorer (13.3 points) and rebounder (7.7) for a Class 3A state championship team, 5-foot-7 junior forward Courtney Smith will be looked upon even more after the graduation of three starters.
I am kind of used to being the baby of the team, Smith said. Now I have to be a leader and step it up. I am ready for that role. I have always found myself being a leader, but coming into the program there were a lot of people over me, and I had to respect that. I just waited for my time.
It will be little nerve-racking because I have to be more vocal with my team and speak out. It wont change my game. It will change in that way. I will be doing more of (taking big shots).
Smith and senior point guard Olivia Hahn return for the Cadets, who lost five seniors from last years team – Lauren Marinko, Annalissa Kammeyer, Emily Hockemeyer, Skylar Wright and Bre Smith.
It is like we are starting off fresh, like with a whole new team, Courtney Smith said. We lost five good, key players. We just have to come back up. We are going to be OK.
Concordia (21-5 last year) has won two state titles in three years based on three principles: Balance, defense and leadership.
It will be Smiths job to provide a little bit of all three, with an emphasis on the last one.
We are going to rely a lot on her, Concordia coach Dave Miller said. It has been comfortable for her because we have had such great leadership from older kids the last two years as she was a freshman and sophomore. Now the expectations for her is that she is going to have to provide some leadership and be a calm leader and be as vocal as she can be even though she is a pretty quiet person.
But I know she will lead by example. The kids will respond to that.
And size never seems to be a handicap for Smith, who still manages to get inside for the points and rebounds.
I play from the heart, and I really do play for my team, she said.
I put my team on my shoulders, and I play for them. I dont play for myself. I play with the heart and play with confidence, sometimes, and I have to get better with that.
Miller said Smith does it by getting to the basket before her defender.
She has a very quick first step, and she has worked hard on her perimeter shooting so thats going to be a big plus for us, Miller said. It gives her more of a threat where they cant just back up off her and allow her to shoot it.
She really has a nose for the basketball.