Nikki Smith was a four-year starter in girls basketball at Northview, scoring 1,350 points and helping the Wildcats to a 90-11 record during that time. As a senior in 2004, she led the Wildcats to a 20-0 regular-season record and their second state tournament semifinal appearance under coach Jerry Sigler. She went on to Indiana University, where she knocked down 190 3-pointers, second all-time in school history. Nikki is the daughter of Whitmer boys basketball coach Bruce Smith, and her brother, Ryne, currently plays at Purdue.
What have you been doing since graduating from Indiana University?
"I just bought a home just outside of Indianapolis and I work as a recruiter where I help find staff for Hewlett-Packard. I'm also a freshman basketball coach at Southport High in Indianapolis. This is my first year coaching and I'm helping one of my college teammates, Leah Enterline, who is the varsity coach. Right after finishing up at IU, I moved to Chicago for a year and worked for a production company that produced shows for the Big Ten Network. I worked on Big Ten Tailgate and the Big Ten Icons series and my job was to do all the research and set up all the interviews."
What does your job in Indianapolis entail?
"We staff and help find candidates for jobs at Hewlett-Packard. I like it because some of the people that I've helped find jobs have been laid off for years."
What was it like playing at Northview and reaching the Division I state semifinals?
"I had a great experience at Northview. It was a good time. We all keep in touch through Facebook. Everyone of those girls I played with I had played with since the fifth grade. Looking back at it now, and coaching now, at Northview we expected to win every time we played. The preparation and time we put in, we were in the gym at 6 a.m. during the summer days three or four times a week. That went from freshman year all the way up to our senior year. All of us seriously loved the game. Every year I was in high school we progressively took a step further [in the tournament]. Every year we got a taste of something and it drove us a little more. Only four teams make it to state, so we were a bunch of lucky girls."
What was your playing experience like playing at Indiana?
"It took me a while to adjust to playing at IU and in the Big Ten. In my first year at IU I think we lost 13 or 14 games. It was difficult at times. IU was definitely a learning experience. I didn't play a lick of defense in high school, but I didn't really have to. I also went from playing 20 games in high school to 40 games in college. It was a lot of adjustment. I had to adjust to the physicality in the Big Ten. "
You dealt with your share of growing experiences in college while playing in a program that went through plenty of changes?
"There were a lot of ups and downs. It was tough to play for three coaches in three years. From Kathi Bennett as a freshman, to Sharon Versyp to Felisha Legette-Jack, that had its ups and downs, but I got to experience playing for three great coaches. Life was pretty good overall at IU. I wouldn't trade it for anything. We won some games we shouldn't have and we lost some games we shouldn't have."
What was it like for you when your younger brother, Ryne, informed you he was going to attend Purdue?
"When I was in college I hated everything about Purdue. I had lost my coach Versyp to Purdue and no one liked the school up north [in Indiana]. When he told me he was going to Purdue, I told him I would support him going, but just know this, 'I'm never saying, Boiler up.'? I do support the black and gold now, but only for men's basketball. I know some people might call me a traitor, but family comes first."
Are you surprised to be coaching after only a few years removed from your college playing career?
"I was really burned out with basketball and I needed a break. I didn't touch a basketball for a whole year after college. Then all of a sudden, you get that bug again."
Has your perspective about coaching changed since you've taken on a coaching position?
"Now I see things a little more clearly. Now I have a lot more respect for coaching, especially at the high school level. One of my goals is to become a high school varsity coach one day. I know I have a lot to learn. I've grown up with great coaches and teachers around me, so I want to help kids as well."
How was it playing for coach Jerry Sigler?
"Looking back, one of the things I learned from coach Sigler was how much time and effort he and the other coaches put into it. It's long days, but I've found out the best part of my day is when I walk into the gym and I hear those 10 or 11 girls yelling, 'Coach Smith …' We were very disciplined at Northview. We always ran an offense. We were meticulous. We had a scouting report of the other team before every game. I never went into a game and felt we would lose because we weren't prepared. I give him all the credit in the world for that."
How much do your think you've been influenced by your father, Bruce, in your pursuit of a coaching career?
"I think 95 percent of how I want to coach I've learned from my dad. He was always a hands-on coach. I remember how every night at home he'd sit down and write down plans for every minute of his next practice. I remember going through my first practice as a coach and I went through six things I had written down and I still had an hour remaining in practice."
— Donald Emmons