WPIAL alum Q&A with Quigley Catholic grad Kaitlyn Smith
In high school, Kaitlyn Smith scored more than 1,000 points at Quigley Catholic, guiding the Spartans to an undefeated section mark during her tenure. Now, she's filled an array of roles at Point Park, propelling the Pioneers to several impressive campaigns.
Smith is featured this week in the WPIAL alum Q&A.
Smith began playing a key part for the Spartans as a sophomore in 2012-13, when the team went 18-7. Quigley compiled a 12-0 record in section action, and then defeated California and St. Joseph in the WPIAL Class A playoffs. Although the run ended in the semifinals against Vincentian Academy, the Spartans qualified for the state playoffs.
The following campaign produced similar results for Quigley, as the Spartans finished 19-7. Once again, Quigley went 12-0 in the section, and then knocked off West Greene and St. Joseph in the postseason. However, Vincentian Academy again ended the Spartans' WPIAL title hopes in the semifinals. In the state playoffs, Quigley defeated Southern Fulton before falling to Clarion in the second round. Smith was honored as an first-team all-section performer for her efforts.
In Smith's senior campaign in 2014-15, Quigley compiled a record of 20-6. Once more, the team finished perfect in section action, at 10-0. In the postseason, the Spartans defeated Northgate and Serra Catholic, but again fell to Vincentian Academy in the semifinals. In the state playoffs, Quigley edged Meyersdale before losing to Blairsville in the second round. Smith finished with averages of 12.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 3.2 steals, and she was again named first-team all-section, as well as the section MVP. She concluded her career with 1,076 points.
Following graduation, Smith continued her basketball career at Point Park. As a freshman in 2015-16, Smith played in 30 games, including 11 starts. She netted 8.2 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, and added 76 assists, 31 steals and 11 blocks. The Pioneers finished 19-11, including a mark of 12-5 in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC).
Last season, Smith was limited to 20 contests, including 11 starts. She produced 4.4 points and 2.5 rebounds per game, and chipped in 39 assists and 14 steals. Point Park compiled a record of 18-12, but had a losing record in the renamed River States Conference.
This campaign, Smith shifted from point guard to off-the-ball guard, and started 19 of 28 games. The 5-foot-9 junior provided 7.7 points and 1.7 rebounds per game, as well as 38 assists and 28 steals. The Pioneers, meanwhile, finished 17-11, and 12-5 in the conference. They lost in the River States Conference tournament quarterfinals, however, falling 94-85 in overtime against Alice Lloyd College to conclude the season.
Smith took time to answer questions about her evolving role with Point Park, her role with the campus activities board and the best advice she ever received.
How has your role with Point Park basketball evolved over your three seasons?
My role at Point Park has changed significantly since I came here as a freshman, but I think it has allowed me to really develop as a player and enjoy the game of basketball in a new way. During both of my freshman and sophomore seasons, I was the starting point guard for our team. I definitely had my fair share of good and bad games in this role, but I did my best to contribute what I could to my team. This past season, however, I moved to playing more of a 3-guard, and I think this was an even better fit for me, because it gave me more opportunities to attack the basket and shoot mid-range jump shots, which is where I am most successful on the court. I've also seen myself grow as a defensive player during my time at Point Park, and that was a part of my game that really improved during my junior season.
What is the most underrated part of your game?
I would say the most underrated part of my game is my ability to handle the ball. There have definitely been games where a team has pressed us, and I've had to step up my ball-handling to get us in a set, but for the most part, I haven't had the chance to really utilize this ability as much as I would like to.
In which areas of your game are you working on most for your senior season?
One of the biggest things that I am focusing on in this offseason is attacking the basket and getting to the foul line more. Looking back at my college career, I did this a lot as a freshman, and it's definitely one of my big advantages as a player, since I have a quick first step and am able to beat people to the hoop. I don't think I focused on attacking the basket as much as I should have in this past season, so I plan to work on that the most coming into my senior year.
How would you evaluate your team's performance this season?
Our team definitely had a lot of talent and skill coming into this year, and I felt the most confident in our ability to make a run in playoffs than I have with my previous seasons with Point Park. It took us awhile to find a game plan that worked for us, especially since we had more depth than most teams, but we really started coming together when we realized that a fast-paced game with full-court pressing and hounding our opponents was where we succeeded the most. We really started to peak as we got into the second half of our season, but unfortunately, we just came up a bit short. Despite our loss in the first round of playoffs, I still believe that we had the ability to go all the way and make it to nationals, and I'm disappointed that our playoff run was shorter than we all anticipated. If there's one thing I can say about our team though, we never gave up and we played with everything that we had in every single game, regardless of what the score was, and that is something to be proud of.
The Pioneers have won at least 17 games in each of your three seasons. What has been the key to the sustained success?
I think that the biggest factor to our success is how hard we worked in each game. We might not have been the most talented team in the conference, but we never wanted to be out-worked, and that allowed us to find a way to win close games. Another important factor is our ability to capitalize on the skills of our individual players. For example, in this past season, we knew that Sam Weir was going to be a big scorer for us, and we focused on doing what we could to get her the ball. When someone on our team was having an on game, we got them the ball, and we played unselfishly to get the job done.
What led to your decision to attend Point Park?
The main reason that I came to Point Park was to play basketball. I really enjoyed meeting Coach Grenek and hearing the plans that he had for our team and for me as a player, which made me excited to play for a team that could have a legitimate chance of winning a conference championship. Additionally, I loved the location of Point Park, since being downtown allows for so many opportunities and experiences, so that was definitely a factor as well.
What is your major and ideal future profession?
I am currently majoring in business management with a concentration in marketing and a minor in accounting. Ideally upon graduation, I would like to work with an event planning company and be able to coordinate all types of corporate, social and non-profit events.
What has been your favorite college class?
My favorite college class was definitely my intro to business class that I took during my freshman year. This class was very hands-on, and we worked a lot in groups to develop a business plan from scratch, which was a great learning experience for me.
You are involved with the campus activities board. What does that role entail?
I am currently the executive director of the campus activities board and, in this role, I oversee all of the administrative, programming and marketing efforts of our organization as we coordinate eight-10 campus-wide events per month. Through my position, I act as the representative for CAB with the professional staff on campus, and coordinate our bi-annual training segments for our executive board team. Overall, being a part of our campus activities board has allowed me to further my passion for event planning, while also meeting new people and making a difference on Point Park's campus.
What did it mean to score more than 1,000 points during your career at Quigley?
I can honestly say that I wasn't the type of player who was very concerned with how much I scored or the points that I was bringing in after a game, since my main responsibility was to handle the ball and get it to the open people. With that being said, I feel so honored to have reached this milestone in my career and to have been able to share that moment with my teammates, sister and family. All I ever cared about was being able to play the game that I loved and win as much as I could, but the moment when I scored 1,000 points is something that I will never forget.
What was your fondest high school memory?
My fondest high school memory would definitely be when my team and I got to cut down the net during my senior season as section champs. Since we went undefeated in the section throughout my entire career at Quigley, we held that as our standard for each year, and we did not plan to lose the streak. I didn't realize until the end of my senior year just how great of an achievement it was to go undefeated in the section for more than four years, and it makes me proud that I was able to be a part of that.
Who is your favorite professional athlete?
My favorite professional athlete is Steph Curry because of his ability as a player, his work ethic and the morals that he stands for.
What is your favorite sports movie?
My favorite sports movie is “Coach Carter.” I love the message that it teaches about the game of basketball itself, and how much this game shapes you as a person.
Do you use social media often, and if so, which is your favorite?
I do have multiple social media outlets, but I can't say that I am very active on any of them. If I had to pick a favorite though, I would choose Instagram since I am able to see pictures and stories from all of my friends.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
One piece of advice that my dad has told me throughout my entire life is, “Anything in life that is worth doing is worth doing well.” As I get older, I am able to see just how correct this statement is and how important it is to put everything you have into each and every task you attempt. I'm a very competitive person, and my dad always pushed myself and my sister to give our best effort in whatever sport or activity we tried. Over time, I've come to realize just how valuable time is, and that if you're going to make a point to do something, there's no reason that you shouldn't put everything you can into doing it right.
Sean Meyers is a freelance writer.