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Smart success: Senior's aggressive play keys hot start for defending 1A champ

It took a little coaxing a few years back, but David Smart finally convinced his daughter to be more aggressive on offense. Teenagers may not listen to their fathers all of the time, but taking this advice has worked out pretty well for Nicole Smart.

Nicole Smart

It took a little coaxing a few years back, but David Smart finally convinced his daughter to be more aggressive on offense.

Teenagers may not listen to their fathers all of the time, but taking this advice has worked out pretty well for Nicole Smart.

"Getting her to understand that her role is to score took a little bit of doing," said David Smart, who is A-B's girls hoops coach. "Not that she was against it, but she doesn't like to stick out."

The Ada-Borup senior is off to a fantastic start for the third-ranked and defending Class 1A champ Cougars.

Smart, who will play in college at the University of North Dakota, is averaging 24.8 points per game, and now has 2,318 points in her career.

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That gives her an outside chance at 3,000, something only six other girls have done in Minnesota history.

Smart said she likes helping the offense light up the scoreboard as much as anybody, but she wants those points to get racked up by everybody.

"I don't really think about all of the points, and everyone likes to score," Smart said. "I just want everybody to be involved.

"I'm not worrying about how many points I have. As long as we're winning, I'm having fun."

If winning is the main ingredient to having fun, the Cougars have had a lot. Ada-Borup was 33-1 last season en route to the Class 1A title, and it is off to a 5-1 start this season.

Smart entered this season 39th on Minnesota's all-time scoring list, and her 149 points (24.9 ppg) through the first six contests have moved her past 10 girls on the list - including former Crookston standout Kamille Wahlin.

Smart is also close to passing a couple of local stars on that list. She's 40 points behind former Climax-Fisher standout Brenda Slyt and is 46 away from Fergus Falls' Hannah Draxten.

Both Draxten and Wahlin are at the University of Iowa.

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"Nicole's been playing since her eighth-grade year, and she put up double figures that year, so that helps," David Smart said. "She's just blossomed as a player from there."

Part of the reason she's been able to pile up so many points on offense is because of the way the Cougars play defense.

Ada-Borup forces a lot of turnovers, and Smart has been on the receiving end of a lot of easy transition layups. That means 20 points can come in a hurry.

"I don't know where some of those points come from sometimes," Smart said. "When our full-court press gets going, you can get a lot of points very fast. And that's the whole team that's defending."

Another influence was her sister, Kelli, who ran the offense as the Cougars' point guard for Nicole's first three years on varsity.

David Smart said Nicole benefited from having someone on the court that got her comfortable with things right away.

"It's tough to understand that sister thing, but they were on the same page right away," coach Smart said. "Kelli seemed to get her the ball in the position to make sure she could succeed on offense."

Smart isn't the only successful Cougar, as fellow seniors Laura Kolness, Katy Ness and Vicki Ellefson have all had their share of highlights.

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"It's weird because we're the older girls now," Nicole said with a laugh. "We've been together for a long time, and the goals are still the same."

Readers can reach Forum sports writer

Kerry Collins at (701) 241-5548.

Collins' blogs can be found

at www.areavoices.com

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