Patriot League 20th Anniversary Profiles: Jen Smith



Sept. 2, 2010

Name: Jen Smith
Institution: Colgate University
Sport: Women's Basketball
Graduation Year: 1995
Undergraduate Degree:Psychology
Did You Know?
Inducted into Colgate Hall of Honor in 2002.

She recorded 1,537 points during her Raiders career, which ranks fourth at Colgate and among the top 20 in League annals. Smith was twice named All-Patriot League during her career, and was nominated for the Rhodes Scholarship in 1995.

  • Two-time Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year (1994, 1995)
  • Two-time Academic All-America selection (1994-95)
  • Three-time Patriot League Academic Honor Roll member (1993-95)
  • Among top 10 in Colgate history with 616 rebounds, 341 assists and 201 steals.

Q: What factors helped in your decision to attend Colgate University?
A: I knew that I wanted to attend a small liberal arts in a rural community with a strong academic tradition and have the opportunity to try out for a Division I sport. On paper, Colgate certainly fit the bill. It also helped that I had a high school friend a year ahead of me who attended Colgate. Visiting her sold me that Colgate would be a great place to spend four years. Despite Colgate being my first choice, I had actually sent in a deposit to St. Bonaventure because my family could not afford Colgate's tuition. At the last minute, however, a revised financial aid package made it possible for me attend Colgate. I am forever grateful to the various people and foundations associated with Colgate that offer financial support that enable students like me to attend such a wonderful institution.

Q: Who were your sports idols growing up and why?
A: When I was really young, I looked up to Tom Seaver and O.J. Simpson largely because I was a Mets and Bills fan. (I'm not such an O.J. fan any more for obvious reasons). In high school, Michael Jordan was inspiring to watch - I admired his intensity, passion and will to win. I also liked scrappy players like Danny Ainge, Wally Backman and Andy Van Slyke who always seemed to be hustling and full of heart. As a Bills fan, I liked how Cornelius Bennett always appeared to be having fun on the field.

Q: What was your proudest on-the-field/court accomplishment?
A: Overall, it would be winning Sectionals as a high school junior. As a team, we had set that as our goal when we were playing seventh grade modified basketball. In college, it would generally be our senior year, having seen all our hard work pay off with a winning Patriot League record after struggling the previous three years to have any team take us seriously. As for a specific moment in college, I suppose it would be beating Fordham at Fordham during my senior year; the game demonstrated the above point. We came together as a team that game and played with such confidence to defeat one of the best teams in the League that year.

Q: What was your proudest academic accomplishment?
A: That question is a hard one to answer for me. Any academic pursuit has always been about a love of learning. I was always a bit surprised by any academic accolades since that was never in mind when I studying/working. Upon much reflection, a few things come to mind; feel free to use whatever you feel is most appropriate. In high school, I remember being flattered at my selection as outstanding senior. As for college, I was proud of a group project we put together for a Philosophy of Science class. It was probably the first time I had had a genuinely positive group academic experience where everyone participated equally and contributed their own unique perspective to the project. It was also very humbling to be Colgate's nominee for a Rhodes Scholarship. Although I did not ultimately become a Rhodes Scholar, it was a very nice feeling to know how well the scholarship committee thought of me. I felt similar sentiments at being selected as an 1819 award winner and receiving feedback on my honors thesis for psychology as well as for history (Colgate's 1819 Award is given annually to the senior whose character, scholarship and service best exemplify the spirit that is Colgate). In law school (at the University of Virginia), I was flattered to be selected Notes Development Editor for the law review as well as a member of the Raven society.

Q: How were you able to balance the demands in the classroom with the demands of being an athlete?
A: Very little life outside the two. In retrospect, I suppose I was able to prioritize and manage my time accordingly. Though it certainly was not always easy, for whatever reason, I was able to focus/concentrate on a task at hand despite outside distractions. I was also blessed with professors who were outstanding teachers and flexible, peers who took wonderful notes during classes I missed and coaches who provided opportunities to complete work/study on road trips.

Q: How did your experience as a student-athlete prepare you for life after college?
A: It helped me hone time-management skills and prioritize tasks. It taught me the importance of balance and multi-tasking - that one can wear more than one "hat" at a time. During college that might have been "scholar" and "athlete"; today, it is "teacher", "parent", "partner", "recreational athlete" etc. Certainly there were other lessons drawn from being a collegiate athlete (importance of teamwork, lifelong friendships, respect/ appreciation for differences, etc.) as well as a scholar (perseverance, hard work, dedication, etc.).

Q: How did it feel to be named the two-time (1994, 1995) Patriot League Female Scholar- Athlete of the Year?
A: Humbling.

Q: If you could go back to college and compete one more time, where would it be and against whom?
A: That's a tough question. One answer would be a redo of our last game against Bucknell in the first round of the Patriot League Tournament (1995). We were two evenly matched teams playing to stave off elimination. It would have been nice to advance to the next round. Another answer would be to have had the opportunity to play the following year when Colgate did make the championship game; it was VERY challenging to watch the game from the sidelines as an assistant coach that year and NOT desperately want to be out on the floor with many of my former teammates.

Q: If you had to offer current student-athletes some words of wisdom what would they be?
A: It is a cliche, but I would advise them to treasure every moment, even the difficult ones, because they are among the luckiest people to have had the opportunity to both play a sport and be a scholar. Years from now, they'll hopefully look back and appreciate the experience more completely but to be able to savor it on some level while they are in the moment is particularly special.

Q: Do you still follow Colgate athletics?
A: Not with the same intensity and consistency as I once did, but I am always looking for Colgate's name on the ticker and enjoy hearing about their exploits whatever the source (Colgate scene, paper, friends, etc.).

Q: Looking back, what does it mean to you to have been a Patriot League student-athlete?
A: I am so thankful that I had the chance to compete against great athletes, the vast majority of whom recognized they would make a living in something other than their sport of choice. There seemed to me to be a passion, intensity and intelligence to the games that I remember fondly. Today, when I meet someone who attended a Patriot League school and played a sport, I cannot help but feel a unique connection with them.