At the edge of the quaint campus of Quinnipiac University sits the bandbox Burt Kahn basketball court-where Queen Smith used to score in clusters, deliver pinpoint passes and lock up the opposing team’s top scorer.
Smith, then known as Queen Edwards (her maiden name), wrapped up a storied four-year stay as a Bobcat in 1996.
Smith stamped her imprint at Quinnipiac, then a burgeoning Division-II school in the Northeast-10. The New Haven native played with a dish-before-swish mentality, establishing herself as the second all-time leader in assists (476) and 12th in scoring (1,207 points).
Smith was known throughout the eastern seaboard mainly for her defensive prowess, as she garnered three NEC Defensive Player of the Year awards from 1993-95.
Smith, who’s in her first season as an assistant with Yale, will be back near her old stomping grounds today.
The Bulldogs are set to battle at Quinnipiac, which has since moved into the extravagant TD Banknorth Sports Complex, today at 1PM.
It’s a homecoming that Smith admits she’s giddy about.
“I’m real excited about it. I know my girls are excited about it as well. It’s always nice coming back to your alma mater, and it’s really a homecoming on both sides.”
Smith isn’t the only one being reunited with some familiar faces today. There’s another intriguing subplot to this matchup. This one has a student-teacher angle to it.
The elder stateswoman is Yale assistant coach Dianne Nolan, who coached Quinnipiac’s head coach Tricia Sacca-Fabbri, during her 28-year stay as the head coach at Fairfield University. Sacca-Fabbri is currently a member of the Fairfield Hall of Fame. She eclipsed the 1,600-point milestone and grabbed 1,037 boards while authoring a legendary career with the Stags.
The Bobcats have jumped out of the gates box cutter-sharp, winning seven of their first eight games of the 2007-2008 campaign.
Yale, which won last season’s meeting between the two teams, dropped their first four games-two to national powerhouses Stanford and Arizona State–but have bounced back by running off consecutive victories.
Smith said she wouldn’t really be delving into the sentimental aspects of her return to Quinnipiac, though it will be an emotional game for her.
She said she’s more focused on trying to jack the Bulldogs’ win streak to three games as they round out their out-of-conference slate.
To do that, however, the Bulldogs will likely need to neutralize the inside/outside tandem of Monique Lee and Erin Kerner.
“We need to come to play,” explained Smith. “What we’ve really emphasized (preparing for Quinnipiac) is to not deviate from our game plan. We need to come to play and stay with our offensive intensity. I think Kerner’s a really great player, she’s going to be tough (for anyone) to stop this season. If we stick to our game plan, however, I think we’re certainly capable of beating them.”
Smith was offered the vacant assistant coaching slot after working for Yale’s National Youth Sports Program the past ten years.
She developed a solid relationship with Yale head coach Chris Gobrecht and jumped at the opportunity to hop aboard.
“So far so good,” said Smith of how her first Division-I coaching season has gone. “We’ve played some very tough teams early on, but now we’re really starting to communicate and getting into where we need to be before conference play.”
Few members of this year’s Bobcats team really know what Smith did for the University.
“She really left a lasting legacy here at Quinnipiac,” said Kerner, a point guard who leads the Bobcats with 15 points and 3.6 assist per game.
Smith and Kerner met over the summer through a mutual friend-Kerner’s cousin, and got to know each other.
“It would be an honor to do the same thing that (Queen) did here, to leave that same kind of mark. I know she was a special player here.”