Former Arizona center Semaj Smith will have a new team and conference next season, but she will be well-acquainted with her new coach.
The fifth-year senior announced on social media that she is grad transferring to San Jose State. The Spartans just hired former Arizona assistant coach April Phillips.
Smith is joining a team that went 5-25 last year, but there are reasons to believe things will be different next season. Phillips, who is a highly-regarded recruiter, hit the ground running after being announced as the new head coach on April 6. She has also secured the commitment of 2021 Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year Marissa Davis-Jones who transferred from Washington.
Smith came to Arizona as part of the highest-ranked class in program history to that point. ESPN HoopGurlz had her pegged as the No. 52 overall recruit and the ninth-best post in the class of 2018.
Despite the high hopes, Smith never became a permanent part of the Arizona rotation. Her appearances dwindled as the years went by. In her freshman season, Smith averaged 2.2 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks in 11.7 minutes per game. She appeared in 35 of Arizona’s 37 games as the team won the 2019 postseason WNIT title.
The next season, Smith got the nod as a starter in eight games when power forward Dominique McBryde was injured. The sophomore appeared in all 31 Arizona games for an average of 14.3 MPG. Her averages took a step up, as well, with her stats improving to 3.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 0.9 BPG. Her shooting percentage improved from .407 as a freshman to .494 as a sophomore.
That’s when her career at Arizona stalled. Smith saw her minutes drop by more than half to just 6.1 MPG her junior year. She appeared in just 14 of Arizona’s 27 games.
As a senior, Smith saw even less time on the court. She saw action in only nine of the Wildcats’ 29 games and averaged just 3.4 minutes in those games. She accounted for 1.7 PPG and 0.9 RPG.
With the additional year of eligibility granted to all players, Smith has one more chance to make a big impact on the court. If she is able to fulfill that dream, the Spartans will be the beneficiaries.