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Playing hoops in Iceland


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Former Hawkeye basketball star Kristi Smith recently finished her first professional season playing for Keflavík Basketball Club in Reykjanesbær, Iceland. The 5-6 sharpshooter averaged 21.5 points and 3.5 assists per game as a rookie, earning the honor of 2009-10 Guard of the Year in her league.

The Daily Iowan caught up with the 22-year-old marketing major a few days after she arrived back home in her native Thornton, Colo.

DI: How was your first year playing professionally?

Smith: It was a really exciting experience. Once I got used to the fact that I was on a different continent and in a different time zone, away from my family and friends, it was really easy. They speak really good English over there. My coach and my teammates were all very helpful. As far as basketball, I was on a great team and had a great coach. In college, I had the green light to shoot, but more so over in Iceland. My coach had crazy, crazy confidence in me. He actually had to yell at me quite a few times to shoot more.

DI: What was it like living in Iceland?

Smith: It was pretty similar to Iowa, the weather. It was just as cold as Iowa, but more windy. It was dark. Up until Dec. 20, it was dark most of the day … When I first got there all I wanted to do was sleep.

DI: What was a typical day like for you?

Smith: Once I got adjusted to the time zone, I would sleep in till noon, go grab some lunch, go workout, hang out in my room for a bit, then go to practice. That was basically my day. We usually practiced around 6 or 7 at night, so I had a whole bunch of free time during the day. At night, I would stay up till like 3 or 4 Icelandic time, so that I could talk to my friends back home. It kind of got a little monotonous, but it was fun.

DI: Was playing professionally what you expected, or how was it different?

Smith: The level of play is good, but I expected it to be a little better. I came in not expecting to start right away. I had maybe a couple practices with the team, and all of a sudden, I was starting. What I did expect was to have tons of free time on my hands, and I did. I hung out a lot, watched a lot of TV. When we had off days, my teammates were really good about taking me to see the sights and stuff like that. Basically, what I expected was to learn about a different culture and gain some fun, valuable life experiences, and I definitely did that.

DI: What was the difference between college and professional basketball?

Smith: In college, I had four or five coaches, plus a strength coach, and they were constantly telling me what to do. You have a schedule, and it’s planned out. Professionally, it’s all on you. I had two coaches, and they were really laid-back. We practiced for an hour and a half a day, so that’s not very long. I’m used to three-hour practices.

DI: What are your plans for the off-season and next year?

Smith: I’m going to live in Iowa City, work at Active Endeavors and just work out and train. My team in Iceland already asked me to come back next year, so that’s one offer. I’m kind of waiting to see what other offers I get to maybe try a different country. I’ll be training, but if jobs come along, I might have to look into taking a job. So, we’ll see; it’s kind of up in the air right now.

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