Feb 28, 2013 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports EditorCentral Wyoming College freshman Stephanie Smith is the best shot blocker in U.S. junior college basketball.
The 6-foot-6 defensive specialist holds the No. 1 spot in the National Junior College Association.
Smith averages 4.5 blocks per game. The center from Mountain View has been credited with 122 blocks this year. CWC finished the regular season last week and is focusing this week on the upcoming Region IX women's basketball tournament.
The Region IX women's basketball tournament starts Sunday in Scottsbluff, Neb. The CWC Rustlers are the No. 6 seed for the single-elimination tournament.
"It's exciting to know that I accomplished that," Smith said. "I have been doing my best so that everybody else can be happy."
Smith's career high of 13 blocked shots came on Dec. 1 in a 72-45 win for CWC over the Jamestown College junior varsity team.
The day before, Smith recorded 11 block shots after Williston State won a 56-55 decision against the Rustlers.
Smith also had 11 blocks in a 58-46 win against Miles City Community College on Jan. 22.
Smith has a big cushion over her nearest rival. Destiny Bragman from Trinidad State Junior College is No. 2 in the nation at 3.6 blocks per game.
"I don't really look at the stats," Smith said. "My teammates or my coaches tell me."
Smith said blocking shots has become a normal thing to do while she has her basketball uniform on.
"I don't think that there is a art form to blocking shots," Smith said. "It sometimes surprises me when I block shots. My hand just happens to be up at the right time. I just put my hand up and hope it hits the ball.
Smith and Bragman will both be playing in the Region IX tournament next week.
"There is just not many opportunities to be at the top," CWC women's coach Serol Stauffenberg said. "It's a heck of an accomplishment when you have all the different junior college teams. Stephanie keeps the ball playable when she blocks the shot, so we can catch it and head down to the other end of the floor."
CWC starts the Region IX tournament at 5 p.m. Monday vs. McCook Community College.
Smith had an up-and-down season last year playing in the Class 3-A division at Mountain View High School.
"I think that I have improved a lot since I have been playing at CWC," Smith said.
Smith started 20 games this year for CWC. She is pulling in 10 rebounds per game.
"I have more confidence. I'm not so scared playing the game," Smith said.
Smith is scoring 9.2 points per game.
"Scoring points helps your confidence," Smith said. "I also don't feel that I need to score a lot of points."
Smith is playing almost 28 minutes per game, while anchoring CWC's zone defense in the paint.
"The biggest thing is that she is able to stay on the floor and not get in foul trouble," Stauffenberg said. "She has done a decent job of that."
Smith came to CWC to play with her sister, Emily Smith, a sophomore this year.
"It's fun to play with my sister," Stephanie said. "It will be sad when I don't get to play with her anymore."
Stauffenberg expects Stephanie Smith to have offers after her sophomore season to play on the next level.
"I'm planning on coming back to CWC," Stephanie said. "I just need to improve my overall game in every category."
Get your copy of The Ranger online, every day! If you are a current print subscriber and want to also access dailyranger.com online (there is nothing more to purchase) including being able to download The Mining and Energy Edition, click here. Looking to start a new online subscription to dailyranger.com (even if it is for just one day)? Access our secure SSL encrypted server and start your subscription now by clicking here.