As a skinny 6-foot post player from Kailua, Hawaii, Jamie Smith wasn't heavily recruited out of high school.
When newly hired UNLV coach Kathy Olivier invited her for a campus visit late in the recruiting process in 2008, Smith came running to the Lady Rebels.
"It was tough for me to get looked at, so when I had a big school like UNLV look at me, I jumped on that opportunity," Smith said. "I told myself whether I played or not, I was going to work my butt off, and things came."
Smith, who was Olivier's
first UNLV recruit, has since exceeded all expectations in helping spark an impressive turnaround by the Lady Rebels.
The senior is only the second player -- man or woman -- in Mountain West Conference history to compile at least 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds and is five boards shy of breaking Linda Frohlich's school record of 1,124, set from 1998 through 2002.
Smith, averaging 9.6 points and 8.3 rebounds, can break the mark on Senior Night today at Cox Pavilion, where the second-place Lady Rebels (21-8, 9-4 MWC) can clinch their highest league finish in 19 years with a win over Colorado State (13-15, 9-4).
"That just speaks of her relentless work ethic," Olivier said of Smith's numbers. "I wouldn't say she's the greatest basketball player, but she's the greatest worker. She's always doing extra.
"She's a total overachiever. ... She just never stops."
Smith, a former conference Freshman of the Year, led the league in rebounding her first two seasons, including a career-high 10.5 per game as a sophomore that ranked 21st in the country.
The undersized forward said her success on the boards stems from desire and determination.
"Every time I go into the game, I tell myself I need to get every rebound," she said. "I always say rebounding, it doesn't matter how big you are or how tall you are, (only) if you're a worker and want to get in there.
"I can't jump. I just use my technique and just get in there."
Smith, who along with co-captain Mia Bell stayed after practice Monday to work on her shooting, said she inherited her tireless work ethic from her tight-knit, sports-loving family.
Her father, George, played football at Colorado and in the Canadian Football League; her older brother Scott played college football the last two seasons at Texas Tech; and her mother, Brenda, played junior college softball at Eastern Arizona.
"I just followed their lead," said Smith, a straight-A student who led Iolani High to the state title as a senior, when she was named Hawaii's Gatorade Player of the Year.
She was weighing scholarship offers from Utah and her native Hawaii when Olivier called.
"It was just kind of fate," Smith said. "I was called on the day I was supposed to make my decision. They offered me a trip, so I took that opportunity and I loved it here."
After Smith endured three straight losing seasons at UNLV, the Rebels have reached 20 wins for the first time in eight years. Smith is relishing every moment of this season, which she hopes to cap with a conference tournament championship and an NCAA Tournament bid.
"That's been my goal all four years I've been here," she said. "This year, it's definitely within reach for us."
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354.