Despite a star career at one of the top high school programs in the state, Stacey Smalls was often told that she would not succeed at a higher level.
At only 5 feet 5 inches, people would tell her she was too short.
They would say that she wouldn’t be able to guard anyone of the Division-I level.
She wouldn’t be able to see passing lanes through the taller guards she would face.
After the third year of a college career that has seen her season average just under 10 points a game and have a 1.41:1 assist-to-turnover ratio during that time, Smalls has done a lot to prove those disbeliveers wrong.
In addition to her statistics, she has also been a key contributor in Temple’s rise to national prominence.
As the starting point guard, she has controlled the Owls offense for the past three years including the team’s Atlantic-10 Championship and NCAA tournament run last year.
For her efforts, she was named the A-10 Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player last season and the past two years has been named to the All-A-10 Second Team.
But this year will be different.
In the past, while Smalls has been asked to be a leader on the court, there was a proven supporting cast; players like Athena Christoforakis, Lisa Jakubowicz, and Natalia Issac were there.
With many departed players, Smalls is now being asked to be the player at the forefront.
A pressure situation to be sure, but Smalls has never been one to shy away from pressure.
“I knew with all the freshman coming in I had to step up even more as a leader,” Smalls said.
“It is something I have to do and I am ready for it, and training how I always train. Getting my shots in, and playing as much as I can.”
She has come through these pressure situations in the past with excellent results.
Her big coming out part in high school was the District One AAAA championship game in 1996.
Smalls exorcised the demons from previous playoffs for Cheltenham; she was perfect on nine free throws to ice the Panthers victory over Downingtown to win their First District title.
It was only the beginning of a fantastic four-year run for Smalls which would see a trip to the PIAA semifinals her freshman year and to the state finals in her senior season.
According to Smalls, her ultimate goal is to play in another NCAA tournament and then play in the WNBA.
Likely, people will once again say that she is too small and not strong enough.
Given her track record of pushing well beyond conventional expectations of her, it would not be far fetched to see her prove them wrong again.
“I do have big plans for me hopefully,” Smalls said with a smile.
“I have intentions to play after college.”
Even with these big plans Smalls has for herself, she will never forget her hard-fought four years as the floor leader for the Temple University women’s basketball team.
“I have been through so much,” Smalls reflected of her time at Temple.
“The first Dawn Staley practice ever, not even knowing if I will make it, but hard work pays off.”
Smalls will continue playing hard with a new cast of characters in hopes to finishing strong and on top.
Chad Cooper from WRFT radio at Temple University Ambler contributed to this article.
Matt Sitkoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org