Otahk coach signs 3 of his former players

Thursday, April 11, 2002

B.J. Smith should be plenty familiar with his first batch of recruits as Southeast Missouri State University's women's basketball coach.

Smith and his staff landed five players Wednesday on the first day of the spring signing period -- and three of them played under Smith last season at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College, which finished second in the national junior college tournament.

"All three were recruited by Big 12 Conference schools," Smith said. "They're all very talented kids and we're really happy to have them."

Smith said he was elated with the five recruits -- all junior college transfers -- the Otahkians landed Wednesday, and Southeast plans to sign three more players in the next two weeks.

"I feel very good," Smith said. "This is a good start for us. These five players form a good nucleus to help our program go where we want to go. And we're not done yet. We're going to sign some other very good players."

The three transfers from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M are Brandi Russia, a 5-foot-7 guard who averaged 10.1 points per game and shot 38 percent from 3-point range; Miah Lee Shelford, a 5-11 forward who averaged 7.3 points and 5.5 rebounds; and Carina Souza, a 6-1 forward who averaged 9.1 points and 4.2 rebounds and was the MVP of the regional tournament.

Russia and Souza were both honorable-mention junior college All-Americans.

Wednesday's other signees are 5-4 point guard Sarah Costello from Seminole State in Oklahoma and 6-1 forward Louise McGoldrick from Marshalltown in Iowa. McGoldrick averaged 15 points and 9.8 rebounds.

Smith said the five players were the ones the Otahkians targeted since he was hired a little more than two weeks ago.

"Those were the five we wanted right off the bat and it feels good to get them," he said. "They can all run and jump, and all five of them are warriors.

"With these five players and the others we're going to sign, I think we're going to be much improved next year. I think the level of play will be different than what we've seen in the past."

Smith's Northeastern Oklahoma A&M teams featured several international players and four of the five players signed Wednesday hail from foreign countries: Costello (Australia), McGoldrick (Scotland), Shelford (New Zealand) and Souza (Brazil).

Those four will be the first foreign players to ever suit up for the Otahkians.

"That's just how it worked out this time," Smith said. "It's not necessarily what we were looking for, but I have had a lot of success with international players."

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