Up next, it's Alexia Smith, a 5'8 guard from Columbus, Ohio, who helped lead Columbus Africentric Early College to two state titles in her career and a spot in the state semifinals as a senior before the tournament was shut down due to COVID-19. A five-star recruit according to ESPN, Smith was the 46th player overall in the class, as well as the 15th-ranked guard. She is the first five-star recruit for either the men's or women's programs at Minnesota since at least the 2011 class.
GopherSports.com: What was your recruiting process like?
Alexia Smith: "I feel like my recruiting process was fun, really just talking to different coaches and stuff like that. Coaches were reaching out and always talking to me, texting me, calling me, especially Minnesota. They were always contacting me, even if it wasn't Coach Whalen. It was a fun process."
GS: What made you decide on Minnesota?
AS: "I just liked how they were non-stop contacting me. And when I came on my visit it felt like home, and I knew that's where I wanted to spend my four years."
GS: How familiar were you with Coach Whalen as a WNBA player?
AS: "I was very familiar with her, just watching her play with Maya Moore and the Lynx. How she was a gritty player on the court as a point guard and knowing I could learn a lot from her."
GS: As a fellow point guard, did that make you want to play for her more knowing that she had been so successful in the WNBA?
AS: "Yeah, because I know that she's been there so she can help me get to where I want to be on the court and off the court. I knew that with her being a point guard she could help me develop my game more."
GS: Obviously COVID has altered just about everything in the country. How did it affect your senior season of high school?
AS: "It affected it a lot; we couldn't finish our tournament. I felt bad that we couldn't finish our season, we made it to the final four, but I'm going on to a new chapter now at the University of Minnesota."
GS: You won two state titles in high school and could have possibly won a third. How do you think having that much success can help you at the collegiate level?
AS: "I feel like it will help me a lot because I've won state titles, so it helps me have a mindset of how to get to a championship at the collegiate level. Even though it's different because I'm playing against different girls and better competition, it'll still help me get to a championship in college."
GS: For people who haven't seen you play, how would you describe your style of play?
AS: "I attack the basket a lot and have a great mid-range shot. On the court, I'm everywhere; on defense stealing the ball, just quick."
GS: What have you been able to do to keep your game up?
AS: "Just getting in the gym, working on my jump shot and dribbling and stuff like that. And then get in the weight room and work on strength. But for my game, I work on little things that I know I need to work on to keep up my game."
GS: What have been your impressions of spending time with the team so far?
AS: "I really like everybody; I feel like everybody brings something different to the team, even if it's not offensive or defensive-wise. Everybody has their own little things that someone else doesn't have on the team that they can bring. It could be a really big impact for us."
GS: Have you noticed a step up in the level of play since you've gotten here?
AS: "Yeah, a lot. Just seeing how the people who were here before and how they play. Like you've got to go to the basket differently than you did in high school; there you could just go. But there are a lot of different things you need to do here at the college level than high school."
GS: Have there been any teammates in particular that have taken you under the wing so far?
AS: "Yeah, there have been a couple, like Justice (Ross), Klarke (Sconiers) and Grace (Cumming). Even the transfers in from other schools have taken me under their wing and made me feel welcome. I feel like that's a big reason why it's been an easy transition for me to college, so it's been helpful."
GS: You're going to wear No. 1 here at Minnesota. Is there any significance to your jersey number?
AS: "That was the number that I wanted because I like smaller numbers, so I picked No. 1."
Off the Court with Alexia
Favorite Food: Cheese pizza
Favorite TV Show: Spongebob Squarepants
Instagram/Snapchat/Twitter or TikTok: Instagram
Favorite NBA and WNBA Players: Russell Westbrook and Chennedy Carter
Favorite Basketball moment: Winning back-to-back state championships. That's a big accomplishment because that's the first time it ever happened in school history for us.