With the NCAA Tournament looming, the No. 2-ranked LSU women’s basketball team is looking to do everything it can to have an edge this weekend.
For coach Pokey Chatman, that edge comes with former player Aiysha Smith.
Smith, who played at LSU from 2001 to 2003, returned to the LSU campus to assist Chatman in practices as an extra player on the court.
In her second season with the Washington Mystics WNBA squad, Smith has spent the week practicing with LSU.
“To have a player of Aiysha’s caliber, it wouldn’t be smart to not have her around,” Chatman said. “She’s a versatile post-player who can post with both hands and can shoot the three.”
According to Chatman, Smith was contacted during the WNBA offseason and asked to come and help with the practices.
With players not having to report to camp until late April, Smith gladly obliged.
“I just want to do a little bit for the team,” Smith said. “I think they’re already good, so I just do whatever I can.”
Starting in all 64 games in her time at LSU, Smith transferred to LSU in 2000 from Tyler Junior College.
Smith was named a Kodak First Team All-American in 2001.
Serving as an alternate on Team USA in the 2001 World University Games, Smith made an immediate impact at LSU upon her arrival.
After recording double-figure scoring in 27 consecutive games in her junior season, Smith concluded her time at LSU the following season as a finalist for the Naismith National Player of the Year award after starting all 34 games.
Now in her second season in the WNBA, Smith averaged 4 points per game last season as a forward for the Mystics.
“It’s best when her play mimics the play of someone else,” Chatman said. “That’s what she does for us.”
Yet according to Chatman, it’s not just Smith’s physical presence that benefits the team.
“She’s a player that, pound for pound, can post with the best of them,” Chatman said. “In between plays, she’ll always talk with the players. But it’s more about her spirit.”
Senior Tillie Willis, who played with Smith her freshman year and faces off with her in practice, said Smith is just an all-around good person to be with.
“She’s just sweet and kind-hearted,” Willis said. “She’s very down to earth. We can talk to her about anything.”
Having practiced with the squad during the week, Smith, who is engaged to former LSU football standout Marcus Spears, said the players appear to be championship-bound.
“They’re smart, athletic and talented,” Smith said. “They have everything to win a national championship.”
While she will not travel with the team, Smith said she will keep up with LSU’s progress during the tournament.
“I wish I was still playing,” Smith said. “As long as they win, I’m happy for the coaches and the team.”