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Smith decides on Big East

5/11/2011
Glenn Nelson/ESPN.com

The increased involvement of family gave Bria Smith a different perspective as she was given a second lease on her recruitment.

It wasn't that her family pushed her to choose Louisville over Tennessee, it was that wanting more access to them pushed the No. 8 prospect in the 2011 class to make that decision on Wednesday.

Until now, Smith, of Massapequa, N.Y., had been the highest-ranked uncommitted prospect in her class. No. 73 Whitney Knight of Winston-Salem, N.C., is the only ranked but uncommitted player in the 2011 class. No. 87 Taylor Ford of New York, N.Y., plans to attend prep school.

"The help from my family was pretty much why I chose them," Smith said of the Cardinals. "I had a lot of support from my coaches and family this time around and I am glad that they will be close enough to see me play. It will allow them to see a lot of games since I will be playing in the Big East."

An explosive, 5-foot-8 guard, Smith originally chose and signed with Virginia. However, Debbie Ryan, the coach to whom she pledged, retired unexpectedly after the season. Smith was granted a full release by Virginia from her National Letter of Intent.

Joanne Boyle moved from Cal to replace Ryan and Virginia was considered by Smith, though it didn't make her final list.

"They were still a choice but if it was meant to be, it would have happened last time," Smith said of Virginia. "I am a believer that things happen for a purpose and I just really wanted to play for Coach Ryan. When she left, it was like all my feelings about playing for Virginia left as well."

Louisville had been among Smith's finalists when she chose Virginia. She made an official visit there during spring break from Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.) late last month. Smith was a four-year starter and McDonald's All-American at the renowned New York high school, averaging 21.1 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game as Christ the King compiled a 21-9 record during her senior season.

The Cardinals previously had signed the class' No. 12 prospect, Sarah Hammond, a 6-2 forward from Mount Vernon, Ky. They've since announced the transfers of three players -- sophomore guards Nikki Burton and Rachel Story and freshman forward Polly Harrington.

Smith's addition gives Louisville the prospect of scintillating backcourt. Shoni Schimmel averaged 15.1 points and 4.9 assists and was named to the Big East all-freshman team. Both have been invited to the U19 USA Basketball trials that will be conducted May 22-25 in Colorado Springs, Colo. Smith was a member of the USA team that claimed gold at the FIBA U17 World Championships.

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Rebecca Gray is an intern for ESPN HoopGurlz. She previously wrote a column for the website about her experiences as a freshman on basketball scholarship at the University of North Carolina. She transferred to and played at Kentucky and now plays basketball and golf at Union College. A 5-foot-10, sharp-shooting guard out of Georgetown, Ky., Gray was named Miss Basketball in the state of Kentucky after averaging 25.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.1 steals and 4.8 assists during her senior season at Scott County High School. She can be contacted at rebecca@hoopgurlz.com.

Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A graduate of Seattle University and Columbia University, he formerly coached girls' club basketball, was a co-founder and editor-in-chief of an online sports network, authored a basketball book for kids, has had his photography displayed at the Smithsonian Institute, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at glenn@hoopgurlz.com.