Aug. 16, 2012
Former Golden Gopher Carol Ann (Shudlick) Smith was a standout player for Minnesota from 1990-94. She led Minnesota to its first NCAA Tournament appearance and was honored with the 1994 Wade Trophy, which is awarded to the NCAA National Player of the Year. Smith was the Gophers' all-time leading scorer with 2,097 points at her career's conclusion, while she also earned Kodak All-America and first-team All-Big Ten honors. She was inducted into the "M" Club Hall of Fame and was later honored by the NCAA by being included in a list of 209 student-athletes listed as "NCAA Women's Basketball's Finest." The Minnesota native now resides outside of Chicago with her husband and three young children.
Following graduation from Apple Valley High School, 1990 Minnesota Miss Basketball, Carol Ann (Shudlick) Smith, knew that the University of Minnesota was the place for her. Smith came in as a star player and changed the Minnesota women's basketball program forever.
Smith was the recipient of the 1994 Wade Trophy, which is awarded to the NCAA National Player of the Year, and also led the Gophers to their first NCAA Tournament appearance. The standout knew that getting the Wade Trophy was a major accomplishment, but she remained as humble as could be as her team entered the postseason.
"I think at the time I didn't really think about it, there was so much going on," Smith said. "We were going to the NCAA Tournament and I was so excited. You don't really focus in on what you're doing, it's more about what your team is doing and the wins and losses. Now that I look back on it, I think "Wow! It's kind of a big deal." (laughing)... As you have time to settle in you realize not everyone gets something like that."
After the completion of her successful Gopher career, Smith brought her game over to Spain for a year, but then came back to the States for the start of the American Basketball League (ABL).
She completed a one-year stint with the Columbus Quest before returning to Europe to compete on the Sweden team. Following another year overseas, Smith returned home for good and put her skills to the test for the newly-formed WNBA.
"I did try out for the WNBA and took part in training camp, but I never made a WNBA team. That's when I had to decide what I wanted to do with my life, because I was 25. I was a really good college player, but I wasn't a great professional player," Smith stated.
Although her basketball career had slowed down, her professional career was just taking off. Smith, knowing her love for sports, went on to continue her education at Ohio University, pursuing a master's degree in sports administration. After earning her degree, Smith stuck around Columbus for four years working with a number of non-profit organizations.
Meanwhile, throughout all of this, Smith met the love of her life. While playing for the Columbus Quest, she met her teammate Kate Smith's brother, Tom.
"I met Kate's brother and we ended up getting married. It's all kind of intertwined," she said.
The pair moved around the Midwest for a few years, with its first stop at Michigan State University, where her husband did his residency in orthopedics and she worked in development.
"Aside from going to a University, that was my first taste of working at one, and that was something I really enjoyed," Smith said.
After leaving Michigan State, the couple returned to Smith's roots in Minnesota for a few years before residing in Western Springs, Ill. Throughout all of that time, Smith had been blessed with three children, who are now seven, four and two years old.
As for if the three kids will get into basketball, Smith said it will be up to them.
"My seven year old just started, and my four year old and two year old are still a little young, but they like it!" Smith said. "They'll get involved in all kinds of sports, they're just starting out in everything."
Smith is enjoying her time today as a stay-at-home mom, but still has plenty going on to keep her busy. She continues to give back to the community and volunteer whenever she can.
"I volunteer at school, I teach Bible School at our church and I'm in a couple of book clubs, which I really enjoy. Life of a stay-at-home mom!" Smith laughed.
She also recently did the two-day Avon Breast Cancer Walk, raising over $17,000 to support research for breast cancer through Avon.
Along with raising three children and staying involved in the community, Smith is still able to have some fun.
"We just went to Disney for the first time. Neither my husband nor I had ever been there, so it was an exciting first time trip for us," Smith said of her recent travels. "And I just turned 40, so that was a huge deal. I had a party with a lot of my college friends."
Smith and all those college friends continue to keep in touch, especially her Gopher teammates. Out of all her basketball experiences at Minnesota, her favorites had to do with her teammates.
"I came in and I met my two best friends to this day, Mary (Klotzbeecher) Orsted and Nancy (Alexander) Harshman," Smith said. "Now looking back as I get older, you realize how much the friendships mean to you. Everyone really keeps in touch; that's the biggest key and the most fun about having the experience at Minnesota."
To continue to stay connected, the college teammates get together as much as they can and talk often. Smith, along with Orsted and Shannon Loeblein, are going on a camping trip this summer.
Smith has already achieved great things throughout her years and has had the chance to take part in amazing experiences. Sometime down the road when her kids have grown, she would love to get back to working in the sports industry. But, for now, Smith loves where she is and what she is doing.
"I love staying at home and taking care of the kids," Smith said. "You just get busier as they grow and I really enjoy that. I can't wait for them to get more involved in sports. I love going to the games already and watching them."
As life continues to move quickly, Smith knows what is best for herself as a mother, wife, friend and professional.
"Every day I think it's important to try to better myself as a mom and a person through my faith. I also try to be the best I can for my kids, my husband and for myself," Smith said. "I want to stay healthy and keep up with what's going on so if I do decide to go back (in the sports industry), it's something that I can be prepared for. I try to read a lot and keep myself current. I just love sports and I have a passion for it. It's brought me so much excitement, joy and fun in my life."
Sports may have brought all that excitement and joy to her life, but what is truly amazing is all the excitement and joy that she has provided for all the Minnesota fans over the years. Carol Ann (Shudlick) Smith goes down in Gopher history as one of the best of the best. She not only was an amazing player, but an overall amazing person.
- by Kelly Klein, Athletic Communications Assistant