Jenna Smith, a 6-foot-3-inch center who was one of the most dominating high school girls’ basketball players during a career lasting from 2002-2006, was among 15 former student-athletes named to the Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2020 after starring for the University of Illinois women’s team from 2006-2010.
After playing her first year and earning All-Big Ten Freshman Team honors under longtime Coach Theresa Grentz, Smith was coached the remainder of her career by Jolette Law.
She made the All-Big Ten First Team in 2008, 2009 and 2010 while finishing as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,160 points and leading rebounder with 1,217Smith is also the school’s highest draft pick ever in the WNBA. She was chosen by the Washington Mystics with the 14th pick in the second round.
She chose to play overseas and has enjoyed career stops in France, Poland, Israel, the Czech Republic, Romania, Italy, Spain and Greece. Smith last played for Basket Landes in France this year before the French season was cancelled with eight games left in regular league play.
Before her outstanding career at Illinois, Smith played AAU ball for the Summit-University Girls Athletic Association (SUGAA) in St. Paul, one of state’s top programs.
During the winter she played for Bloomington Kennedy, leading the Eagles to the Class 4A state championship as a junior in 2005 and runner-up finish in 2006 while earning Ms. Basketball as the state’s top player. Four years later Smith became Illinois’ all-time leading scorer with a twist of irony.
Smith’s 29-points and 14-rebounds performance led the Fighting Illini to a 74-72 overtime victory. Robinson, who forced the extra period and is a member of the Marquette “M Club” Hall of Fame as of 2018, finished with 12 points.
Smith is considered by many Illinois faithful as the most dominant player in school history.
Dr. Mitchell Palmer McDonald is a contributing columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.