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Drawing distinction

College of the Canyons forward Charity Smith finds a creative outlet

Posted: March 2, 2009 1:15 a.m.
Updated: March 2, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Cougars forward Charity Smith prepares for a free throw on Friday against Mt. San Jacinto at College of the Canyons. Smith possess artistic talents comparable to her stellar play on the court.

The skills of College of the Canyons forward Charity Smith are picture-perfect.

She catches the ball in the post, puts it in the basket 63 percent of the time and often takes contact while doing so, earning the chance for an extra free throw.

Cougars head coach Greg Herrick couldn’t draw it up any better.

Smith, on the other hand, might be able to.

When she’s not bruising her way through opponents on the court, the COC sophomore often has a sheet of paper in front of her awaiting her next artistic creation.

“I love cartoons and coming up with characters, because it’s something you can do,” she says. “You create it, and no one can tell you what your character’s supposed to be like.”

There are few characters like Smith in the Western State Conference. She’s averaged 14.9 points and 8.5 rebounds per game while leading the Cougars to a conference title and seventh seed in the Southern California Regional Playoffs.

But as much as she loves basketball, Smith welcomes the change of pace that drawing offers her.

“It’s definitely an outlet for anything that’s in your head,” she admits. “It is liberating. You’re so into academics and basketball, people telling you what you have to do and it has to be perfect. With drawing, it’s just that. It’s what I want.”

At first, Smith wanted to turn her drawing into a career, and even thought about starting her own business to compete with Disney and other mainstream animation companies.

Since then, Smith has settled on psychology as a major, but she still draws three or four times a week in the offseason.

It’s something that Herrick encourages.

“We’ve had players in the past that have had what people would consider unusual hobbies for an athlete,” he says. “It’s a matter of taste. We always advise our kids to have other interests besides basketball. It makes you a more well-rounded person.”

When she joined the Cougars as a freshman, Smith herself was a blank canvas in many respects.

She had moved to Palmdale from Pasadena in the middle of seventh grade due to family issues, and struggled to make friends at first.

Once she enrolled at Palmdale High School, she was able to attend classes with her sisters and cousins, which helped her comfort level. She was a key contributor on the Falcons’ basketball team and helped Palmdale win three straight Golden League titles from 2004-2007.

But the soft-spoken Smith still wasn’t the leader she is now.

Herrick and his staff helped her get there.

“She was a lot less willing to assert herself,” Herrick says. “These kids come from different schools and programs, and they don’t know where they fit in. They play a different style, have different coaching.

“We’ve coached her now for two years. She knows what the expectations are and she’s more assertive in there.”

That assertiveness has drawn interest from the likes of Cal Baptist, William Penn University and the University of South Dakota, the schools Smith is considering once her time at COC is finished.

Meanwhile, Smith has always been assertive with drawing — even to the point of annoying her sisters.

“I like to do profiles of people,” she says. “I used to draw my sisters. They didn’t really like it when I was little. I used to make them sit for 20 minutes so I could draw their nose, their face, whatever I needed to get better.”

Her mother and grandmother are also talented artists that have helped Smith improve.

If she could draw herself as a cartoon character, Smith would make some more improvements.

“I’d probably be a little more toned,” she laughs. “I’d probably be taller. Maybe I could get more looks at 6-foot-5. That’s a good height for basketball.”

Herrick and the Cougars are satisfied with the picture they’ve got.


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