Bev Smith enters Canadian Basketball Hall

Bev Smith is being inducted into the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame this fall based on a playing career that spanned two decades, two Olympic Games and three world championships.

But Smith feels her game is only gearing up.

Arguably the best female basketball player Canada has ever produced, the Salmon Arm, B.C., native was known for her infectious love of the game and her pride in representing her country.

Now, that pride comes from nurturing other players as head coach of Canada's women's team.

"I was completely taken by surprise (by the honour)," Smith said Thursday from Kingston, Ont., where she was coaching 34 players from across the country in a developmental camp.

"Right now, though, we're in the middle of a real building process here, we're bubbling, not at the point of boiling, just in the construction process."

Smith was a standout on the Canadian team for 18 years, competing in the 1984 Olympics and, at the age of 36, the '96 Atlanta Games.

She is the sole inductee in the athlete category and is entering the Hall in her first year of eligibility.

"Bev Smith was the Canadian women's team's Larry Bird," said Don McCrae, the former national women's team coach and Canadian Hall of Fame member.

"That is, she was able to do all things on the court."

Smith was a two-time all-American at the University of Oregon and played pro in Italy for 13 years.

She says her fondest memory is exacting revenge on Brazil at the 1979 world championships after suffering a humbling 20-point loss to the South Americans when she was just 17.

Canada went on to beat Brazil again at the '86 worlds and win a bronze medal.

The Canadians also won bronze in '79.

But for all her accolades as a player, the 41-year-old Smith is finding coaching an even bigger thrill.

"I think it's more satisfying having been a part of both worlds," said Smith, who took over as head coach in 1997.

"As a player, you have to be focused, you have to be ready. But you can put it aside when practice is over and rest.

"You could just park it.

"As a coach, it's continuous," she added. "You have 12 people you have to find a role for and make them feel good about their contributions, however big or small.

"It's a lot different. You have to spread yourself differently, a lot to take care of before you can finally go to sleep at night."

Basketball Canada recently announced Smith will coach the team through the 2002 world championships and 2004 Olympics in Athens.

Basketball Canada also announced 12 inductees in the veterans category for individuals whose contributions to basketball were established at least 20 years ago.

They include Rita Bell, Canadian team member from 1940-'54, Hank Biasetti of the Toronto Huskies; Ebbie Bowering, former president of the Canadian Amateur Basketball Association; Alex Fisher, a builder of Ontario basketball in the 1930s; sports writer Bob Gage; coach Jimmy Rose; official Ernest Quigley; sponsor Gerry Livingston and Olympians Barry Howson, John McKibbon, Stanley (Red) Nantais, and Warren Reynolds.

The 2001 Hall of Fame inductions will be held in Almont, Ont., on Oct. 13.

By Lori Ewing