May 09, 2013
Former UK point guard Amber Smith will join the Tennessee women's basketball staff as a graduate assistant, the Volunteers announced on Thursday. She'll assist with on-campus recruiting duties and other work around the program.
"We are very excited to have Amber join our program," Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said in a press release. "She knows the commitment required at this level, she has great passion for the game and has leadership qualities you would expect from someone who has played point guard. I look for her to be a strong liaison with our players and a nice addition to our staff."
Smith wasn't as celebrated as forward Victoria Dunlap, who arrived in the same recruiting class in 2007. But she was a critical part of the program's turnaround in her career, playing from 2007-2012. She started 14 of 21 games as a freshman before tearing her right ACL late in the season (she was first team All-SEC freshman anyway). She came back that fall and started 30 games as a sophomore to lead the team in assists and steals.
Her junior year was even stronger, as she helped lead UK to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament while averaging 9.2 points and 4.5 assists, but she suffered another setback when she tore her left ACL that summer. She missed what would have been her senior year, but came back as a veteran presence in 2011-12 to help UK to another NCAA tournament.
Those ACL injuries would have been devastating to some players, but Smith kept bouncing back. She was as fiery as any athlete I've covered, and was always the first player to dive on the floor for a loose ball.
UK head coach Matthew Mitchell got his start in college coaching as a GA in Knoxville also. He was with the Volunteers during the 1999-00, when the Vols' lost in the national championship game.