Often times the concept of the student-athlete gets lost in translation.
The focus becomes more about the athletics and less about the academics. But when you go to the Colorado School of Mines, a school renowned for its engineering programs, the onus is most definitely on the student.
Former Legacy girls basketball standout Caitlyn Smith’s learning is nonstop in Golden. The demanding rigors of the classroom are one thing; adjusting to the collegiate game is quite another.
Thankfully she has a wonderful group of upperclassmen that have made the transition to the Orediggers program fairly seamless.
“They have made it so easy to get into a rhythm,” Smith said. “Everything is so cool here.”
Smith has played in all 13 games this season, and while the numbers aren’t spectacular, she understands that her time is coming and that the time she gets to study the pace and physicality of the college game will only work to her benefit. Behind senior Tory Langas and sophomore Courtney Martin — the two other six-footers for coach Brittany Simpson’s Orediggers — as well as all-conference forward Allie Grazulis, Smith is averaging nearly 8 minutes a game.
“She gives me 100 percent every single day on every single possession and she is a rebounding machine for us right now,” said Simpson, whose team is 3-10 this season. “Her minutes are limited, but she is getting better every day and she is playing behind a very good group of post players that is going to prepare her for next year for sure.
“The great thing about Caitlyn, she has a great attitude and she gives you everything she’s got every single day; which is a coach’s dream.”
Smith was a key cog in the Lightning’s run to the Class 5A state title in 2011-12, that included single-digit state victories over Denver East, Doherty, Highlands Ranch and then over Front Range League rival Monarch in the title game at the Coors Events Center. That year she averaged 8.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, including a 13-point outburst against Highlands Ranch in the semifinals.
During what at times was a frustrating senior season for the team, Smith nearly averaged a double-double on a Lightning squad that never seemed to find any sort of consistency in an effort to defend its title.
“I think I brought my tough play and my rebounding from high school with me,” Smith said. “Those are the sort of things that you can control no matter what the speed of the game is.”
And Simpson understands that the success and work ethic Smith had at Legacy, and that ability to win games at all costs, is something that allows most underclassmen to succeed quicker than most.
“They understand team basketball. Players in a system are going to win some basketball games,” Simpson said. “We love to recruit kids out of programs that have been successful.”
Smith is leaning towards earning her degree in civil engineering with the goal of either doing something with the oil companies or with “the engineering side of chemistry.”
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