Born to be athletic: The story of Liz Smith

Liz Smith

Liz Smith

For the past four years, Liz Smith ’24, a senior guard, has made an impact on the basketball court at University of the Pacific. During her junior season, she was named to the All-West Coast Conference First Team for the first time. And this year, Smith was selected to the league’s All-Preseason Team.

A native of Dallas, Texas, Smith grew up in an athletic and competitive family. Her mom, Jennifer Thibeaux, is a former gymnast and her dad, Kevin Smith, earned three Super Bowl championships as a cornerback with the Dallas Cowboys during the 1990s. 

“It’s in my genes,” Smith said. “Their athleticism and competitiveness rubbed off in the best ways possible. My entire family loves sports, so I grew up around it.”

Smith’s love of basketball started as a kid watching the Dallas Mavericks play. She remembers watching the team win the 2011 NBA championship. In that moment, she knew she wanted to play basketball. 

“She’s been a role player and a star. She’s successful on the court and in the classroom."

        - Bradley Davis, head coach

In high school, she played for IMG Academy, a sports academy in Bradenton, Florida. Smith was selected as IMG Academy’s Most Improved Player in 2018 and Most Valuable Player in 2020. She was also a McDonald’s All-American nominee. 

She had a lot of offer letters on the table but ultimately settled on Pacific. 

“I love the family atmosphere,” Smith said. “The emphasis in this program is being a family and being together. That was important to me because I’m from Dallas, so I’m still away from home. And I’m still young, so I needed that family supporting me.”

Due to the pandemic, her freshman year in 2020 got off to a slow start. She had to quarantine for a month, missing the first three games. She averaged 2.4 points, 1.2 rebounds and 0.8 assists per game her freshman season. The experience motivated her to work hard during the offseason. 

Now a senior, Smith has seen her scoring average double. She has recorded 44 double-digit performances with seven of them at more than 20 points. 

Last season, she led the team in scoring at 14 points per game. She also led the team in free throws and was fourth in the West Coast Conference in free throws scored. She is closing in on 1,000 career points.

Liz Smith

She gains her confidence from within herself along with the encouragement of her teammates and coaches, especially women’s basketball head coach Bradley Davis.

“Liz has been everything you can be as a student-athlete,” he said. “She’s been a role player and a star. She’s successful on the court and in the classroom. She’s publicly represented our program and university with the highest level of sincerity and integrity. She impresses me more and more every day.”

Smith said she is proud of what she has accomplished in her career but still has a big goal ahead—winning the first conference tournament championship in program history. The Tigers’ last conference championship win was in 2013 when they were in the Big West.

“That’s my biggest goal this season,” Smith said. “That’s been my goal since I’ve been here, and it’s extremely attainable.” 

The Tigers open West Coast Conference play Thursday, Jan. 4 at Saint Mary’s. Pacific’s first WCC home game will be Thursday, Jan. 11 against Loyola Marymount. See the full schedule and purchase tickets online.