Karissa Smedley (above) is committed to Georgian Court (N.J.) to play basketball. (Photo: Jared Leveson/CoBL)
The senior is a three-sport athlete who’s been invaluable to each team’s success whether it be stopping shots as a goalie in soccer, clamping down opponents in lacrosse, or dominating on the hardwood.
She has the hardware to prove it.
Smedley earned Most Valuable Player honors for girls soccer, lacrosse, and basketball as a junior at Council Rock South.
Despite her success in several sports, Smedley's heart has belonged to basketball since elementary school.
“I remember my very first team,” she said. “I don’t even remember how we did but I remember how much fun it was and it made me want to play the next year and the next year and then I fell in love with it.”
The Georgian Court University (N.J.) commit wouldn't be the player she is without the athletic and leadership skills she’s developed playing different sports in the fall and spring. Everything that Smedley’s muscles have memorized and brain has absorbed were on full display in CR South’s 56-46 win over SOL Patriot rival Pennsbury on Friday night.
“I think it makes me very versatile,” Smedley said about the benefits of being a three-sport athlete. “I am a soccer goalie, like it gives me better reflexes and when I play basketball, I get steals because I get little pokes because of my goalie skills. I am a defender (backer) in lacrosse. I have to talk to everybody and run the defense and it's made me a better vocal leader on the court.
“I take things from my non-dominant sports and bring them to basketball to make me a better basketball player.”
“She was really good tonight,” CR South head coach Blair Klumpp added. “I really pushed her the last two weeks to get more aggressive. Don’t be selfish but get more aggressive within our offense and take advantage of her mismatches because she’s got a versatile skill set to do so. She did what I know she’s capable of everytime she steps on the basketball court.”
“I think multi-sport athletes are good, particularly on the basketball court.”
The 5-foot-11 forward has contributed to South’s program since she first arrived at 2002 Rock Way in 2019. She came off the bench as a freshman, but got subbed on often and rarely came out of games.
Smedley loved basketball, but things got serious during her sophomore year. She was named captain and told Klumpp that she wanted to play at the collegiate level.
Field hockey, soccer, and lacrosse kept her busy during critical offseason months. Although, Smedley found a way to balance it all and still hone her craft as a hooper.
“We have girls that bounce around to different (sports),” Klumpp said. “But the impressive thing about (Smedley) is that she’ll show up to workouts while she’s in other sports.”
“She’ll come to do skills work. She won't do contact and stuff like that but she’s always visible.”
Kathryn O’Kane is a guard for CR South who plays all three sports with Smedley. The sophomore has forged a strong connection with and learned a lot from her multi-sport teammate.
O’Kane made varsity as a freshman at CR South, but didn’t experience the immediate success that Smedley had found. She was discouraged, but Smedley, who was a junior captain at the time, recognized O’Kane’s talent.
“I look up to her the most honestly,” O’Kane said. “She’s been such a great leader in every single sport, especially (for) basketball. Last year, I didn’t play that much and she told me to keep my head up.
“After a bad game she always keeps her head up. She’s always encouraging other people even when she makes a mistake. She’s always keeping her teammates head’s up and I feel like that's really important and that's what I take away from her.”
Now O’Kane is CR South’s primary ball-handler and helps facilitate the offense. She got the ball to Smedley in threatening positions which propelled CR South to their 10-point win over Pennsbury on Friday night.
“I guess the gatorade she had before the game really worked,” O’Kane said about Smedley.
Her shot selection was efficient, her drives were aggressive, and the touch on her finishes were soft. Smedley finished with a game-high 24 points on 11-of-14 shooting and added two assists on the offensive end.
Smedley scored 14 of her 24 in the first half, but she took over in the fourth quarter. Pennsbury’s Sofia Vitucci shrank CR South’s lead to 45-44 with under five minutes remaining.
The stalwart asserted herself on the defense, recording two blocks and two steals. Her final steal put the game away.
The Georgian Court commit put the team on her back and went on a personal 8-0 run, capped off by a breakaway lay-up after intercepting a kick-out pass, which pushed CR South’s lead to seven points. Pennsbury didn’t score again until the game’s waning seconds.
South swept Pennsbury for the first time in nearly 10 seasons; however, Klumpp’s squad fell short of the Suburban One League Playoffs, but got a valuable road win prior to Districts. They are ranked 15th in the District I 6A power rankings and are a lock for the tournament.
“I am just ecstatic,” Smeldey said. “Coming into this year I have never beaten Pennsbury and to beat them twice (in one year) feels amazing.
“My coach has been getting on me about getting to the basket more (and) not settling. He’s been pushing me a lot and it really paid off tonight.”
Klumpp has pushed Smedley ever since they spoke about playing college basketball when she was a sophomore and the pair’s trust in one another has grown immensely since. Klumpp trusted a 16-year old to lead his team two years ago and Smedley believed that her coach would get her playing at the next level.
Despite some struggles early in the recruiting process, it’s all worked out for both sides.
The senior’s Division II offers and interests were minimal after the summer live period. She had heard from Ursinus and Cabrini who are Division III schools, but Smedley wanted a scholarship. So Klumpp went to work for his star-forward, sending out film and emailing coaches.
“I pushed all my chips in on my recruiting pitches to the coaches that I reached out to,” Klumpp recalled. “The coach at Georgian Court emailed back one night and it was like 2:30am or 3:00am in the morning the day after I sent the email out. She liked the video (and) everything I had to say. They were really really impressed with her and then it took off from there.”
Smedley traveled to Lakewood (N.J.) visiting the campus and meeting head coach Jasmina ‘Jazz’ Perazic in August. She knew after her visit that Georgian Court was the right fit and committed to the Division II program -- which plays in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) along with Jefferson, Holy Family, Chestnut Hill and others -- in October.
“They loved her as a person and (her) fit athletically as well. She’s a tough kid not to like as a person. I knew that she would check all those character boxes.”
Many of the coaches that recruited Smeldey offered her the opportunity to play basketball and lacrosse, but Smedley was clear and up-front about what she wanted for her future.
“I am ready to just focus on basketball,” Smedley said. “Three sports has been a lot the past four years and I’m ready to see how far I can go with basketball.
“It's gonna be really different and I have started thinking about it. It will be an adjustment, but I think I’ll be just fine.”
CRS: 14 | 13 | 10 | 19 || 56
Pennsbury: 5 | 12 | 14 | 15 || 46
CRS: Smedley 24, Reckner 10, Mangoni 8, Metrick 7, Purpura 3, Gregory 3, O’Kane 2
Pennsbury: Vitucci 21, Gilchrist 9, MacDonald 6, Dash 4, Sherman 3, Jordan 2, Davis 1
Tag(s): Home High School Girls HS SOL Patriot (G) Council Rock South Pennsbury Jared Leveson