VERNON HILLS — Though it was a day she’d known was coming for months, Vernon Hills senior forward/guard Sydney Smith couldn’t have been happier Friday.
Shortly after school ended, Smith signed a national letter of intent to continue her hoops career at Vermont. On hand were more than 50 people, including friends, family and teachers.
Not bad for a young lady who briefly contemplated giving up playing basketball prior to her sophomore season.
“I’m excited that this is official, especially because now it seals the deal,” Smith said. “The excitement of getting to college now is actually building up.”
She even knows how long the wait’s going to be.
“There’s something like just over 200 days left until I graduate from Vernon Hills, then I’m officially a Catamount. But before that happens, I want to do my best to finish this year strong here as a Cougar. Our team is going to be very interesting this season. We have some key pieces coming back, but where they all fit remains to be seen.”
Smith averaged 13.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game her junior season as the Cougars made a second consecutive trip to the Class 3A title game. Smith and senior teammate Lauren Webb — who inked her own scholarship deal with Bowling Green State earlier in the week — both are returning starters on a squad that lost standout center Meri Bennett-Swanson to graduation. Bennett-Swanson is now a member of the DePaul women’s basketball team.
“I’m really excited I’m going to be playing there [Bowling Green State],” Webb said.
Webb and Smith also took part in — and lost — an AAU national title game in Florida as teammates over the summer.
“I keep thinking one of these times it will be our turn,” Smith said with a grin. “But I hate losing, especially in games like that. I’m just so thankful for everyone who’s supported me.”
Cougars coach Paul Brettner, who’s been the coach at Vernon Hills since the school opened, congratulated Smith.
“She’s worked really hard to make this day happen, and we’re all really proud of her and what she’s accomplished,” Brettner said. “She will be an asset to [Vermont’s] school and program.”