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Second chance takes Hunt’s Smith to Catawba Valley

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An ankle injury in the girls championship game of last year’s Farris & Farris Holiday Tournament threatened the basketball career of senior Hunt High point guard Tatiana Smith.

Aided by the diligent efforts of assistant coach Carl Lee, Smith, the daughter of Christy Sutton and Vic Smith, recovered from the dislocated ankle and, after missing only a couple of games, returned to the starting lineup and helped the Lady Warriors win a second straight 3-A Big East Conference championship.

Relief and reward proved to be the byproducts of the 5-foot-6 Smith bouncing back.

Her apprehension has been lifted and Smith now possesses an opportunity to continue her basketball career after recently signing with Catawba Valley Community College of Hickory, a member of the Carolinas-Virginia Conference in the National Junior College Athletic Association.

“It’s a blessing,” Smith declared. “After the injury, it was like starting all over again. I hadn’t decided on a college and I struggled looking for a college. I want to thank Coach Lee for helping me with my struggles.”

Smith, a four-year starter for the Lady Warriors, decided upon Catawba Valley after also considering NCAA Division III North Carolina Wesleyan College and the University of Mount Olive and Belmont Abbey of the Division II ranks. Her dream is to transfer to Winston-Salem State University after two seasons with the Lady Red Hawks.

She credited the impact of head coach Tisha England. In the last two seasons, England has directed Catawba Valley to 50 wins the last two seasons, and has become the school’s first women’s basketball coach to win 100 games. In 2018-19, the Lady Red Hawks finished 24-6 overall and 17-3 in the conference.

“She caught my attention more than the other coaches,” Smith said. “She is really involved with the players. She told me that, as long as I keep working hard, I will get playing time.”

Of her daughter’s decision, Sutton responded: “I love it; I love the coach there. It’s a perfect fit for Tatiana.”

Added Hunt head coach Tiffany Parks: “She made a really good decision. It’s better than settling for Division III. Long term, she’s in a better position for her future.

“I met the coach and her team did really well in the conference. This is good for Tatiani; she will get more playing time..”

Smith reported she was recruited to play shooting guard and does not anticipate a difficult adjustment.

“I feel good about it,” Smith commented. “I have always been a shooting guard; I just had to play point guard at Hunt.”

During her Hunt career, Smith helped her teams to a pair of conference titles and to  the Farris & Farris championship twice. In her senior season, Hunt posted a 22-4 record and reached the third round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A playoffs.

Smith, seldom flashing a smile, averaged 10.8 points per game, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.1 steals her senior season. She was twice proclaimed all-conference and Wilson Times All-Area. 

“I was trying to be focused,” she explained her demeanor.

Smith described her Hunt career as a “work in progress,” noting: “We had to build as a team — and we won two conference championships and two Christmas tournaments. My career was good, but it didn’t end very well.”

The possessor of a 3.0 grade-point average, Smith plans to pursue a degree in broadcasting and communication.

At the next level, Smith will strive to surpass already-established goals and chase new ones.

“I’ve got to keep working really hard,” she emphasized. “I have to keep training and conditioning myself.”

Parks pointed out Smith’s 3-point shooting improved and mentioned her greatest strength as her toughness.

“Tatiana will never, ever give up,” Parks declared. “She’s a fighter; she’ll keep pushing. She’s not at her peak.”

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