Charlotte Smith graduated from her hometown Shelby High School, where she earned all-state honors in basketball and was named her team’s Most Valuable Player all four years.
The niece of former N.C. State great David Thompson chose to play for Sylvia Hatchel at North Carolina, and theirs was a beautiful and prosperous relationship. The most decorated player in the history of women’s basketball at the school, Smith was a four-year letter-winner for the Tar Heels from 1992-95 and has had her No. 23 jersey retired. The 6-foot forward was named National Player of the Year by ESPN in 1995 following a career in which she scored 2,094 points (fifth best in school history) and grabbed 1,200 rebounds (second best in school history).
Smith might forever best be remembered for her performance in the 1994 NCAA Tournament championship game, when her buzzer-beating three-pointer provided the Tar Heels’ winning margin in a 60-59 victory over Louisiana Tech for the program’s first national title. She also had a championship-game record 23 rebounds that night; to the surprise of no one, she was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player.
The ACC Rookie of the Year in 1992, Smith earned All-ACC and ACC Tournament MVP honors in her junior and senior seasons as the Tar Heels claimed back-to-back conference crowns. As a senior, she was named to All-America teams by Kodak, the Associated Press and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. In 2002, she was named to the ACC’s 50th Anniversary team as one of the top players in conference history. She also was honored as the 10th-best female athlete in the history of the league. Early in her senior season, she became just the second collegiate women’s player to dunk in a game when she did so against North Carolina A&T on Dec. 4, 1994.
Following her collegiate career, Smith played pro basketball in Italy, where she was MVP of the Italian All-Star Game during the 1995-96 season. She also played more than 10 years professionally in the United States. Included among her eight years in the WNBA was the 2002 season with the Charlotte Sting, when she helped lead the franchise to the Eastern Conference championship.
During that time, she also got into coaching, first serving nine years as an assistant to Hatchell at her alma mater. The Tar Heels captured four ACC titles during Smith’s tenure on the bench in Chapel Hill. She was named head coach of the women’s team at Elon University prior to the 2011-12 season.
Smith made numerous international appearances for U.S. teams during the 1990s. She was MVP of the 1996 USA Basketball Jones Cup squad, which won a gold medal. She also has played for the 1997 USA Basketball Women’s International Invitational team, the 1995 World University Games team (coached by Hatchell), the 1994 U.S. Select Team, the 1993 U.S. Olympic Festival South team and the 1992 Junior World Championship Qualifying team. She completed her degree in sociology at North Carolina in 1999.
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