LEXINGTON, Ky. – Two former University of Kentucky women’s basketball players Crystal Riley and Amber Smith, have been chosen to participate in the 11th annual Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s “So You Want To Be A Coach” program. The three-day workshop will be held April 5-7 in conjunction with the WBCA National Convention in New Orleans.
The objectives of the “So” program are to increase the understanding and application of skills necessary to secure coaching positions in women’s basketball, increase the understanding and awareness of competencies necessary for success in coaching, introduce female basketball players to coaches and administrators, and raise awareness of the existing talent pool of female basketball players who have a passion and interest in coaching the game of women’s basketball.
“The interest in the ‘So You Want To Be A Coach’ program has been phenomenal and we are glad to see the benefits it has had on so many females,” said WBCA CEO Beth Bass. “The WBCA continues to improve and develop the program year in and year out and we look forward to seeing these future coaches develop into great leaders for the game of women’s basketball.”
Riley, a native of Memphis, Tenn., saw action in 71 games during in her UK playing career (2010-12) after transferring from LSU after one semester. She helped guide the Wildcats to three consecutive NCAA Tournaments for the first time in school history, including two Elite Eight appearances. As a sophomore, she earned the “Stephanie Stumbo Award” which honors a player who makes outstanding and unselfish contributions to the team.
“I was really happy to learn I was accepted to the program,” Riley said. “I wanted to be a part of it because this program is a great résumé-builder, it can help me establish a network, and help me get my foot in the door to further my career. Overall, I think it will be a great experience and I will learn a lot. I look forward to representing the University of Kentucky and I appreciate Coach Mitchell recommending me.”
Riley has already gained another level of admiration for the coaching field as she serves as a student coach on the UK Hoops staff this season while she completes her bachelor’s degree in kinesiology. She is set to graduate in May.
“Serving as a student coach, I understand the coaches’ philosophies and even their frustrations a lot better,” Riley said. “I also see how much works goes into game preparation such as scouting and film. It’s definitely different seeing the coaches from the other side and now that I’ve had a piece of it, I feel like this is just a part of who I am and something I want to do for a career.”
Smith, who hails from Winter Haven, Fla., was a point guard for the Wildcats from 2008-12 and was a member of the one of the most successful senior classes in UK Hoops history. Despite undergoing knee surgeries on both knees, she concluded her UK career having played in 123 games with 109 starting assignments. She averaged 7.0 points and 3.4 assists per game during her career and helped UK advance to four consecutive postseason tournaments, including three straight NCAA Tournament appearances and two Elite Eights. She ranks sixth on UK’s all-time list for games played (123) and assists (425), and is No. 8 in assists per game (3.455). Smith graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in integrated strategic communications in May of 2011.
“I’m very excited and honored to be one of the 50 participants chosen for this program,” Smith said. “Coach Matthew Mitchell wrote a great recommendation letter for me and I appreciate him so much. I learned a lot from him about coaching and I’m very grateful to him and the WBCA for a giving me this opportunity. I want to be a Division I head coach and this program will give me insight on how things work, and I’ll be able to pick the brains of some of the top college coaches in the country as well as network and learn more about the coaching profession.”
“So” participants will learn about recruiting, the administrative side to coaching, how to get hired, skill development, the importance of knowing the rules and how to balance work and life. College coaches speaking at the event this year include Oklahoma State assistant coach Richard Henderson, Penn State head coach Coquese Washington, Nebraska assistant coach Shimmy Gray-Miller, University of Alabama-Birmingham head coach Audra Smith and Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie.
Qualified candidates must have exhausted their final year of basketball eligibility at a four-year institution or have graduated within the past year. Each candidate also had to receive a nomination from her collegiate head coach who is an active WBCA member. Each participant was selected based on academics, contributions to women’s basketball on and off the court, professional résumé and a written recommendation from her head coach.
Sponsors for the “So” program are the WBCA and the NCAA Matching Fund for the Advancement of Ethnic Minority Women Coaches and Officials.