Kim Smith is pretty good, eh?

The soft-spoken basketball star from Mission, British Columbia, made quite an impact south of the border. Besides winning four consecutive Mountain West Conference player-of-the-year awards, she also became the University of Utah's career scoring leader. Other accolades include third-team All-America recognition from the Associated Press. The latter came after Smith helped the Utes reach the NCAA tournament's Elite Eight for the first time.

"We knew from the first time we watched her in our own practice setting just how unique she was," said Utah coach Elaine Elliott. "What we saw this kid do was intense, committed and like 'wow.' "

Basketball is Smith's passion. While fulfilling commitments to Utah and the Canadian National Team, she has worked hard to achieve constant improvement. Her shooting percentage improved each year in college despite increased attention from opposing defenses.

"It showed from the start how absolutely committed to competing she was," Elliott said. "That's it. The uniqueness is absolute commitment to being as good as she can be. She never stops thinking in those terms."

Smith, the Deseret Morning News' Athlete of the Month for March, has seen her hard work pay off. She could very well become the first woman in U. basketball history to have her number retired.

The Utes went 101-29 during Smith's tenure with the program. She scored 20 or more points 40 times and had 33 double-doubles.

"It's more than you could ever imagine or dream of," Smith said of her collegiate career. "It's not something I would have thought of four years ago."

The journey, which ended just shy of a Final Four appearance, was shared with fellow Canadian Shona Thorburn — Utah's all-time assists leader. The duo, a version of Karl Malone and John Stockton, started all 130 games they played together at Utah.

"What you sort of see in a friend is somebody that you can trust. Neither one of them is egotistical. Neither one of them is about themselves," Elliott said. "They're easy to be around and it was easy for them, as I see it, to become friends. They're very much alike in just their personal characteristics . . . It's easy to see why they're friends."

Smith and Thorburn, who is from Hamilton, Ontario, got to know each other while participating in the Canadian national program. Geography, as it turned out, wasn't the only bridge they gapped.

"Kim is very much basketball. It's what she's going to do and what she spends her spare time doing. Shona is all basketball when it's time for basketball but is quite interested in just a myriad of other things in her life as well," Elliott explained. "So they're real different that way. Shona's a lot more outgoing and Kim is a lot less so."

Make no mistake about it, though, Smith and Thorburn share plenty of common ground as well.

"They are very similar when they cross the line everyday to play basketball," Elliott said. "Shona is just as committed to 110 percent effort at everything she does. When it's practice time, there isn't any question."

Thorburn, who was named the outstanding player in Utah's championship run in the MWC tournament, became the first female in league history to post a triple-double.

The one-two punch of Smith and Thorburn paced the Utes to NCAA tourney wins over Middle Tennessee, Arizona State and Boston College. An overtime loss to Maryland put an end to things.

"It's exciting to know we played with them," Thorburn said. "We had a chance to win that game."

The knowledge, thereof, has helped lessen the sting of the painful setback.

"It's kind of storybook and it's kind of fun to believe in that sometimes," Elliott said. "So it's been a great last three weeks and a great four years."


Kim Smith file

Height: 6-1

Year: Senior

Position: forward

Hometown: Mission, British Columbia (Canada)

Honors:

2006 AP All-American (third team)

Four-time Mountain West Conference player of the year

Career scoring leader: Utah, MWC

Led Utes in scoring, rebounding

Canadian National Team member

Drafted No. 13 by Sacramento of WNBA

Guided Utah to NCAA's Elite Eight


E-mail: dirk@desnews.com