Heading into the summer of 2012, Skyline senior Haley Smith was still a relative unknown in many girls basketball recruiting circles.
Injuries derailed the early part of her prep career and left some coaches wanting more evidence that the flashes of brilliance she showed when she was healthy could be there consistently. Smith did all that and more during the summer months, putting her skills, and healthy knee, on display and garnering Division I interest from around the country.
Smith finalized the recruiting process earlier this week, announcing she would sign with the University of Colorado and play for coach Linda Lappe.
The newest member of the Buffalos took some time with the Reporter to talk about her perseverance through injuries, the recruiting process in a major college program and her final season as a Spartan.
ISSAQUAH-SAMMAMISH REPORTER: When you did you know basketball was something you were passionate about?
HALEY SMITH: I've always had basketball as big part of my life. Ever since playing in the pre-school league at the YMCA and then select leagues throughout my youth. I wasn't sure how far I would take basketball coming into my freshman year of high school, but I talked to a father of another former player at Skyline and he helped me find a program where I was able to put in a lot of work and energy and time into just bettering my skills and becoming a better player.
REPORTER: How tough has it been to deal with the injuries during the most critical period of the recruiting process?
SMITH: I first got injured the summer before last during my junior recruiting season. I dislocated my knee cap and it was really difficult because that was my first recruiting summer, when all the big tournaments are. This past high school season I injured the same left knee when I sprained my MCL. I missed about a month and a half of that season. I came in at the end of the season and was able to play in our last few games, we were one game away from the state tournament.
REPORTER: Did the injuries make it harder to get the attention of those major programs?
SMITH: Coming into this summer, I was unknown to a lot of coaches. I had to get it all done and show my full potential.
REPORTER: How has the adversity of being injured changed your mindset and approach to basketball?
SMITH: Injuries have made me battle back and play that much harder. I've had to work really hard with all my rehab and strengthening my knee and hopefully it is back to 100 percent. I'm really excited for all the resources college athletics provide to help us stay healthy.
REPORTER: What made you decide on Colorado?
SMITH: When people talk about the feeling of being at home, I definitely had that feeling at Colorado. I went in June to kind of get a feel for it, but I didn't get to see any students on campus and I couldn't be as involved with the coaches and team since it was an unofficial visit.
REPORTER: Did you take any other visits?
SMITH: I went to Northwestern and go to meet the coaching staff and players and then I went back to Colorado. I really just felt there was a strong family vibe and all the girls were just so close. It really felt like something I wanted to be a part of. I'm excited with the direction Colorado is heading in, moving to the Pac-12 and having coach Lappe, who is a young coach and trying to move forward and elevate the status of Colorado.
REPORTER: How did you connect with the coaching staff?
SMITH: They just have expressed all the potential they see in me and how they see me progressing over the next four years. I really want to see those goals they have for me and the goals I have for myself come to fruition.
REPORTER: What is the toughest part of the recruiting process?
SMITH: There is definitely a little bit of pressure. Over the course of a summer or even two or three years, you really get to know the staff and the players. You get to know all about the school and it's really hard when you get down to the final few schools to figure out exactly where you sit but still not wanting to sever those relationships. There's really no wrong choice, but it's just where you feel most comfortable.
REPORTER: What about the best part?
SMITH: Along those same lines, getting to meet so many people and really feel that people are interested in you and want to help you become the best person and athlete you can.
REPORTER: Was there a moment the game started to click for you and you realized you had a chance to really take off as a player?
SMITH: This past summer was really where I was able to take all the training I've been doing with my trainer and weight lifting and see the results. I'm really happy about where it has taken me.
REPORTER: After sitting out last year, how much are you looking forward to your senior year at Skyline?
SMITH: I'm so excited. My senior year, it's really going to be amazing. I have three other great seniors who will be playing with me who have been with me since fifth grade so I'm excited to have this final season with them. I've been trying to work on my offensive skills, which is something I've heard from numerous coaches I need to work on. I've always been a selfless player, so I'm ready to just kick it into high gear and show off my talents and strengths and hopefully take the team really far.