FAYETTEVILLE – Former University of Arkansas and WNBA women’s basketball Christy Smith returns to campus for Christy Smith Day Sunday when the No. 23/24 Razorbacks host Ole Miss at 2 p.m.
The first 1,000 fans receive a limited edition Christy Smith poster. Smith will sign autographs on the concourse at 1 p.m.
The fifth Razorback women’s basketball player inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Honor, Christy Smith lives forever in the memories of women’s basketball fans for her heroic leadership of the 1998 NCAA Final Four team.
She became the first Razorback to lead the nation in a NCAA statistical category by shooting 89.9% at the free throw line as a freshman. Yet, one of her 15 missed free throws that season cost Arkansas a chance to advance to overtime versus Ole Miss. That loss put Arkansas at 1-3 for SEC games, but Smith would not be denied and led Arkansas on a 6-1 finish to give the Razorbacks their best SEC finish in school history, 7-4, tied for fourth overall.
As a sophomore, Smith had the best single free throw shooting game in Division I for the 1995-96 season, a 15-of-15 effort to defeat Ohio State in the preseason WNIT. Arkansas roared to a program-best start of 13-1, but the team faltered when Smith tore her ACL at Kentucky midway through conference play. Without Smith, the team accepted a NWIT berth.
Upon her return, Arkansas opened 12-1 including Smith leading the Razorbacks’ first-ever win over Tennessee, but a tough close made Arkansas the bubble team left out of the NCAA Tournament.
In her final season, Smith rallied Arkansas again into a NCAA bid, but with a ninth seed and the unenviable assignment to the Stanford-hosted subregional it appeared Smith would end her career short of her dream. But two flawless games from the West Lafayette, Ind., guard — zero turnovers — put Arkansas into the West Regional at Oakland. Defeating Kansas in the Sweet 16, and struggling from behind against eight-ranked Duke, Smith fulfilled her destiny appropriately at the free throw line. In the waning seconds, Duke fouled Smith twice and she calmly sank all four to send Arkansas to the Final Four in Kansas City. It remains to this day the only time an unranked team reached the Final Four.
Smith closed her career second all-time in assists and fifth in scoring. Only 31 assists shy of her coach Amber Nicholas’ record, she certainly would have closed No. 1 in assists without her knee injury. She remains the highest scoring point guard in school history.
Along with her All-SEC honors, Christy was a member of the inaugural AP Women’s All-America Team in 1995. She was a four-time honorable mention AP All-American, a feat made more notable by her season ending knee injury in 1996.
Following her trip to the Final Four, Smith was a second round draft pick of the Charlotte Sting, and as the starting point guard for the franchise led the Sting to the WNBA Playoffs. Injuries limited her playing time the following season and eventually ended her professional career.
Smith was the fifth Razorback women’s basketball player selected by the A-Club membership for inclusion in the Arkansas Hall of Honor. She was inducted in 2005. Smith has three children.