Smith, 5-foot-10, is from Chapel Hill High School in Douglasville, Ga., the same school that produced Bisons basketball player Brandon Barnes. She served as team captain for two seasons. She was an All-District performer for three seasons and an All-Region team member for two years.
She is a versatile athlete. She twice broke her high school high jump record and finished State runner-up in the high jump in 2009 with a 5-6 attempt. She lettered four years in track and field, three years in basketball and two in volleyball. She plans to compete in the high jump for the Lady Bisons.
“She had both some track offers and some basketball offers,” Bennett said. “She came to the campus and really loved it. Her parents and three younger sisters came here. They liked the Christian atmosphere. It was a good fit for her.”
Rebounding and defense are two of Smith’s biggest strengths on the basketball court. She finished her senior season with 314 points, 160 rebounds, 84 steals, 75 assists and a 78.6 free throw percentage.
During her career at Chapel Hill she scored 857 points and grabbed 648 rebounds. She also had 368 assists, 278 steals and a 76.8 free throw percentage.
“She will be a No. 4 or No. 3 player for us,” Bennett said. “She is very athletic. She is a slashing kind of player. She was second in the state of Georgia in free throws so she slashes and gets to the foul line a lot.
“She is a good rebounder. Rebounding was a weakness for us so she should help in that area. She will have to work on her skills a little bit.”
Reece, 6-3, averaged 16.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game her senior year at Veritas Christian Academy in Fletcher, N.C.
“Jess is a really great fit for us,” Bennett said. “The thing that impressed us is that she really runs the floor well. She takes pride in beating post players down low.
“She has good hands. She is a little thin. She needs to get stronger.”
With Clair Waggener deciding not to play basketball next season the post position is one of the more open spots on the team.
“I think Jess can score in the post and give us some more transition ability,” Bennett said. “She has some length.
“We have some possibilities. We have to see who is going to step up. She will definitely be competing in there.”
Reece’s school is known for its challenging academic program. She has taken Greek for three years.
“She is a hard worker,” Bennett said. “She is a great person. Our school is a great fit for her.”
Nelson, 5-5, played for Jefferson County High School. She lives in White Pine, Tenn.
“She is a true point guard,” Bennett said. “The thing that stood out for all of us when we compared notes was how she delivered passes very crisply and right on target. She can push the ball up the floor making long passes or passes from the half court.”
She has been a starter since her freshman year. As co-captain she helped guide Jefferson County to the Class AAA state sectionals for the first time since 2005.
Nelson averaged 16.8 points, 4.0 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 2.7 steals as a senior. She led the team in scoring, assists, steals and free throw percentage as a sophomore, junior and senior.
“She is a good scorer,” Bennett said. “She is a 38 percent 3-point shooter for her career. She has a pretty nice pull-up jumper and is not bad at finishing for her size.
“She played in a good Triple-A District. She played good competition throughout the year.”
Bennett knows that some people might question Nelson’s height, but he is not concerned.
“Ball skills can make a difference,” Bennett said. “Even Tennessee had Shannon Bobbitt at 5-2.
“You don’t see a lot of great passers today. Vision is a part of it. Anticipating an opening and the crispness of the pass are also important. It is right there on target. You have to have an understanding of the game.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.