Facing Adversity

    by John Dodderidge 

    Faith in Christ is Charlotte Smith's top priority. It's helped her survive the adversity she's faced since graduating from the University of North Carolina in 1995 as one of the top female basketball players in the world.
    Adjusting to life overseas was Charlotte's first challenge after college. She played in a professional league in Italy for eight months. Not being able to speak the language, she was able to spend more time reading her Bible.
    Then right after beginning her first season in the new American Basketball League last year. Charlotte's mother contracted double pneumonia and her organs became dysfunctional. She died on Sept. 23, 1996.
    "(My faith) has helped me a lot, especially dealing with any type of adversity. The biggest thing was dealing with the death of my mother last year. My faith helped me get through that," said Charlotte, who grew up in a strong Christian home with three brothers. Her father is a minister and currently pastors a church in Gaffney, South Carolina.

    Charlotte, who played for the Colorado Xplosion last year, was one of the top players in the ABL in 1996-97. She finished ninth in the league in scoring (15.7 ppg) and rebounding (6.5 rpg). She has since been traded twice and battled through some nagging injuries going into her second season in the ABL.

    The Xplosion needed a center, forcing them to trade Charlotte to the Seattle Reign in the off season. The Reign then turned around and sent their newest star to the San Jose Lasers for another top player (Val Whiting).

    "The season is starting out slow, but things are getting better," Charlotte said after the Lasers got off to a rough start this season with a 5-9 record. "My hamstring has been bothering me for two years and I sprained my ankle earlier this year against Seattle."

    It only makes sense she would get hurt against the team that had traded her. Charlotte doesn't look back, though, at the roller coaster year she's encountered. She said she likes playing in a warm weather city and enjoys her new coaches and teammates.

    "It's kind of tough," she said of life on the road as a pro basketball player. "We have a lot of games and do a lot of traveling. Sometimes it's hard to read (her Bible) because I'm so tired. I spend a lot of time praying. I just share Scripture and my faith to players when they're having a hard time."

    When Charlotte played in Italy, she set a goal to read her Bible from cover-to-cover. She said it was the biggest social adjustment she's ever had to make. Fortunately, she had her Bible handy to help her get through the hours away from the court."

    The 6-foot power forward looks back at her college days at North Carolina with great joy. Most basketball fans will remember her for the last-second shot she made to beat Louisiana tech in the 1994 NCAA national championship game on national television.

    Charlotte, a first-team consensus All-American in 1995, didn't want to talk about her outstanding achievements. Instead, she talked about how important it was that she was around other Christians on the Tar Heels.

    "My college experience was a great experience because I had a lot of Christian teammates and a Christian coach (Sylvia Hatchell). That was very important," said Charlotte, who also attended FCA Huddle meetings in college. "We helped make each other stronger. We believed as a team to put God first. We prayed before and after every game. Prayer was very important to us."

    The Christian influence and family lifestyle was a key factor in Charlotte deciding to attend North Carolina. Her uncle, David Thompson, was a star player at North Carolina State in the 1970's and is now a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.

    "He's been an influence on me, not so much about basketball, but more so on lessons in life. I don't get to see him very much, but I talk to him on the phone," Charlotte said of her famous uncle.

    Last summer, Charlotte worked at several basketball camps and was able to take some time away from basketball. She took a long vacation to get mentally and physically ready for her second season in the ABL. She had a chance to play in the other women"s league?the Women"s National Basketball Association?but she wanted to play during the normal basketball season rather than in the summer months.

    She's also set some goals for her basketball career. "I want to win the world championship and become the first woman to dunk on the professional level. I have had a few chances, but haven"t been able to accomplish it," said Charlotte, who was the second woman to dunk in a college game back in 1994.

    After basketball, Charlotte is interested in going into social work. She enjoys speaking to kids. "I try to speak about the importance of education and setting goals, and the importance of God."

    Charlotte is certain about one thing, keeping Jesus first, especially during times of adversity.

    Reprinted by permission, Sharing the Victory