It was during her senior season playing for the San Jose State women’s basketball program that Jasmine Smith came to a realization.
Smith, a Bellarmine-Jefferson High graduate, reflected on her tenure in the sport seemingly coming to an end. But she wasn’t ready to say good-bye.
“I really enjoyed my senior season with the team and it was really so much fun,” said Smith, 23, a 2012 Bell-Jeff graduate. “That just reminded me how much I love the sport.
“At that point I was like, ‘I can’t really hang up the shoes quite yet.’ That’s when I decided that I would explore possibility of playing somewhere somewhere on the professional level.”
It was then that Smith began looking for options around the globe.
“I knew I wanted to play in Europe,” Smith said. “I have never been out of the United States, so I knew that would be a big step for me. But I really wanted to play professionally and I just wanted to be able to enjoy the experience that it wold bring. The possibility of it was just so exciting for me.”
Smith made her professional aspirations a reality in mid-July when she signed with the Rutronik Stars of Keltern, Germany. The Rutronik Stars compete in the highest division of the Women's German Basketball League (DDBL). Smith will play for the club’s first and second division teams.
The club will also have an opportunity to qualify for the 2018 Women’s Eurocup Tournament and plays under the governing body of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA).
“A former teammate at San Jose State, Andrea Kohlhaas, actually played for the team that I will be playing for,” said Smith, a 6-foot power forward. “Being close with her, I kind of have a feel for what to expect there and what to expect with the Euro game and the players.
“I think I will be able to compete. I also believe that I will be able to maximize my abilities on that team. I think I will be a good fit for the team, bringing my skill set that I was able to develop at San Jose State and kind of implementing it into the kind of Euro system. It will be a challenging transition, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Smith added that she realizes there are differences in the European style of basketball and the brand played in the United States, but doesn’t see that as a deterrent.
Dan Muscatell is an assistant coach at San Jose State and was Smith’s position coach for four years. He believes that Smith will be able to be successful with the Rutronik Stars and shouldn’t have a problem with the European game.
“She has tremendous athleticism and strength, and the biggest complement I could give Jasmine is that over the course of four years she knows what she is as a basketball player and she plays to her strengths,” he said. “As long as she plays those strengths, utilizing her strength and her quickness, she will be hard to guard for a lot of people.
“She will have to adjust to some new coaching and new ways of doing things. With that, the next challenge for her is being able to translate those skills to the professional level. ... In addition, she has to adjust to a completely new place to live and a new lifestyle that comes with that. But that is the life of a pro and I expect her to pass those tests with flying colors.”
Smith, who graduated with a degree in psychology, enjoyed a stellar career at San Jose State where she cemented herself among the top players to participate in the program.
In her senior season in 2016-17, Smith started all of the 30 games she played and finished second on the team in points per game (12.1) and was tops in rebounds (8.2). In addition, she had 40 steals.
Smith completed her career with the Spartans as the15th player in program history to reach 1,000 points, finishing No. 8 with 1,234 points. She also tied for the career high in games played (122), is second in offensive rebounds (368), fourth in total rebounds (819), fourth in defensive rebounds (451) and seventh in field goals (527).
“In high school, you’re battling and trying to earn a Division I college scholarship,” said Smith, an All-Area selection at Bell-Jeff who will be leaving for Germany on Aug. 24. “I was so fortunate to get that and then it was a matter of trying to find a place to play as a professional. Now I get a chance to play as a professional, with no school to worry about, and I’m just so excited to take this on at this point in my life.”
The DDBL season begins in September and runs until March 31.