UB senior Joanna Smith leading Bulls once again

Posted at 11:30 AM, Nov 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-30 11:30:09-05

Fresh off their first conference championship in program history -- there's no title hangover for the UB women.

The Bulls have picked up right where they left off a year ago and have raced out to a 5-0 start to for the second straight year.  Leading the charge once again is senior guard Joanna Smith.

"I think for this team, this year, it's the expectation," Smith said. "We expect to get back to the place where we left off."

But, back track six years.  Smith is a junior in high school and a track and field star for South Haven competing at a meet at Mississippi State.

"As soon as I landed in the pit, crack, that's all you heard."

Smith broke her femur, the largest bone in the body.

"After the crack, I knew I wasn't going to be playing ball for a long-time.

A steel rod was used to stabilize and strengthen her leg, and Smith ultimately missed her junior year - prime recruiting season.  But as she continued to work back to full health, head coach coach Felisha Legette-Jack never wavered on the guard.

"Another thing that what drew me to them even more was they checked on me every day and asked how the recovery process was going," Smith said.  "That was another thing I liked about it."

"Her passion. I went to watch her practice and whatever she was doing, she was a leader in it," Legette-Jack said.  "Whether it was a drill, whether it was getting water, listening to the coach -- I just said this is a person you can build a program around and I just loved that about her.  I didn't think about a rod.  No one has a tomorrow that is promised to them, neither does Jo and neither do I, but at this moment we just cared, this kid is a healthy kid and she can help us grow this program that has no history."

Together, Smith and Coach Jack have have added trophies to a once vacant case and banner to the rafters that will remain forever.

"You know I was her first recruiting class and the only player to still be here," Smith said.  "It's special to her. I'm special to her, she's special to me and we just build on it."

"I came to Buffalo without being a successful coach and I needed somebody to give me hope," Legette-Jack added.  "She raised her hand. She joined me on this journey. We raised a banner and we're going to do it again. It's so neat, when as a coach you try to instill inspiration in others. She instilled inspiration in me."

Smith and the Bulls host Central Florida Thursday night. Tip off is set for 7 p.m.