Thursday, March 7, 2013

UNF's Smith Tuning Up for a Run at a Championship


North Florida's Destinee Smith

By DANIEL SHIRLEY
@DM_Shirley

If the Atlantic Sun Conference is looking for someone to sing the National Anthem before Saturday’s title game of the 2013 General Shale A-Sun Basketball Championships, Destinee Smith likely would oblige.

But only if her North Florida teammates are there with her to play after she is finished.

“I wouldn’t mind that at all,” Smith said with a laugh Thursday. “That would be a lot of fun.”

Smith and her teammates had plenty of fun Thursday with their 50-48 win over USC Upstate in the championship’s first round and advance into the semifinals against top-seeded Florida Gulf Coast.

Smith struggled a bit with her shot, making just 2-of-13 attempts, including 0-of-3 from 3-point range, and finished with four points. But she ran the North Florida offense nicely with five assists.

Smith has shown this season she’s about more than just basketball. Her singing prowess was on display at the team’s home regular-season game against USC Upstate. The performance of the National Anthem before that game reportedly even impressed the Spartans players.

She also keeps the locker room lively with her tunes before and after games.

“I did a little somethin’, somethin’,” Smith said with a huge smile. “Off and on all my life, really, I’ve been able to sing. I come from a long line of singers in my family. It’s just a little hobby I like to do.”

It is a hobby that is much different than basketball, which is based on team concepts. Singing is more of a solo endeavor, although Smith said it helped to have her teammates with her when she sang the National Anthem before the game against USC Upstate earlier in the season.

“Playing basketball is like being out on a stage of your own,” she said. “When I get out there to sing, it’s another passion of mine, so it’s like being on stage, as well. Everything is a little different, though. You just hear yourself when you have the mic, and you just listen to yourself and go with it.

“It is different. It is. But I had my teammates right there with me, and they were egging me on the whole time, so it really felt like a team effort.”

The Ospreys (12-18) will need another strong team effort against the powerful Eagles in Friday’s semifinal. Florida Gulf Coast swept the two regular-season meetings and has won 40 straight games against conference opponents.

“We have a really good chance, especially going up against the No. 1 team,” Smith said. “Something about us, we can fight. We’re fighters. That’s what we do. We have come through a lot of adversity throughout the season, and we thrive on that. That’s what we look for, and that fuels our fire.”

Basketball is what fuels Smith’s fire right now, and she uses singing to balance things out.

“I’ve never really thought about (singing) professionally, but it keeps me grounded,” Smith said.

She’d like another chance to show just how grounded she can be in Saturday’s championship game. And maybe a little performance right before.


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