Jackie Carson ’00 is the gift that keeps on giving for Furman women’s basketball.
As Jackie Smith, she carved out arguably the finest playing career in Paladin history. Now she seems intent on doing the same thing as her alma mater’s coach.
Smith was recently named one of two court coaches for the 2014 USA Basketball Women’s U18 National Team Trials. Joined by Stefanie Pemper of the U.S. Naval Academy, they will assist head coach Dawn Staley of South Carolina and her staff with practices from May 23-27 in Colorado Springs, Colo., that will help the USA Junior National Team Committee pick a 12-player roster for the under-18 national team.
The national recognition is merely the latest accomplishment for Carson after a special year in which she led Furman to its best season in nearly a decade and became the first person to ever be named both the Southern Conference Player and Coach of the Year. Despite being picked sixth in the SoCon preseason poll, Furman finished second on its way to an 18-13 record and trip to the WNIT that ended with a 78-64 loss at Auburn.
The 18 victories were the most by a Furman team since the 2004-05 squad went 18-10, which is also the last time Furman had a winning season, and Carson’s upcoming fifth season at the helm looks bright, to say the least. Forwards Brittany Hodges and Holli Wilkins will both be back after earning first-team all-league honors as a junior and sophomore, respectively, as will guard Whitney Bunn, who made the all-freshman team.
Smith, a Woodbridge, Va., native, is the only Paladin to twice earn SoCon Player of the Year honors, in 1998 and 1999, and she ended her career second on Furman’s career scoring (1,920) and rebounding (1,057) lists. She averaged nearly a double-double for her career at 16.8 points and 9.3 rebounds and is the school record holder with 52 career double-doubles and 724 free throws made – 301 more than second place and, incredibly, more than any other Paladin player has even attempted.
Her senior year, Furman won 20 games and went to the NCAA tournament, which is only the second time either one of those things has happened. Carson is a member of the Furman Athletic Hall of Fame and is one of three players to have her jersey (No. 22) retired.