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Article updated: 2/16/2013 12:46 AM

Vernon Hills' Smith sinks her teeth into a future at Vermont

By Joe Aguilar

Sometimes the best conversations between a parent and child take place at the kitchen table.

Forks in the road are chosen while forks are twirled.

And so there sat Vernon Hills junior basketball star Sydney Smith with her dad, Gregg, last week.

They chewed on this: a Division I scholarship offer from the University of Vermont.

It was a lot to stomach.

Three hours passed since Vermont called the very versatile Smith.

"My dad and I literally sat in the kitchen and talked about it," Syd the Kid said. "He was like, 'You should just call back.' I was like, 'I don't know.' You wait so many years for that moment. I wasn't scared of committing, but it was like, 'This is it.' "

Finally, she made the call back. That was that.

She verbally committed to play for Vermont's Catamounts.

"I'm so excited," Smith said. "I haven't regretted it for one second."

The 5-foot-10 Smith, a do-it-all forward who has been a varsity starter for Vernon Hills' Cougars since her freshman year, said she also had an offer from Youngstown State. She won't graduate high school until 2014.

"I chose to commit (early) not because I didn't think I was going to get anything else, but because that's what I felt was right for me," Smith said.

She visited Vermont's Burlington campus twice, the first time last October and then right after the New Year.

"It's magnificent," Smith said. "Burlington is beyond beautiful. I couldn't want anything more for me."

She felt at home, in short, in a state some 18 hours from home.

"I fell in love with the coaching staff, the campus, the girls, everything about it," Smith said. "They're in the process of rebuilding their program and in the process of becoming stronger, and I believe that I can help that. They believe I can help that."

The Catamounts are 7-17, including 4-7 in the America East Conference, under third-year head coach Lori Gear McBride. In Smith, Vermont, or UVM as it's also called, is getting a player who helped lead Vernon Hills to the Class 3A state championship game as a sophomore. She's arguably been the Cougars' best all-around player this season, averaging a team-best 13.4 points per game, while also being a consistent rebounder and defender. She's scored in double figures in all but eight games for a 27-2 squad that won the Lakes regional Thursday night and is the top seed in its own sectional.

Along with senior center Meri Bennett-Swanson (DePaul), Smith gives Vernon Hills a pair of Division-I bound college basketball players. Lauren Webb, the Cougars' 6-foot junior, is also a D-I prospect.

"If you love some place enough, why wait?" Smith said. "I'm so excited to go."

In the meantime, she still has another year of quality kitchen time with her dad.

jaguilar@dailyherald.com

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